The local knowledge and practical support contributed by Ogoni communities to UNEP’s environmental assessment has underpinned the significant progress made so far.
In return for the support of communities in Ogoniland, UNEP is conducting its project in a way which maximizes benefits to Ogoni communities, including by building local capacity for the longer term in collaboration with the UN Development Programme. Effort has gone into ensuring local communities are kept informed about UNEP’s study and are consulted and included.
UNEP has recruited one community member from each of the four local government areas in Ogoniland to be Community Liaison Assistants for the project. Based at each local council office, they are ensuring the mission objectives and plans are communicated within the wider community and local government agencies. Their role includes managing consultative meetings within their communities, and UNEP actively encourages all community members to participate in these forums.
The Community Liaison Assistants are vital intermediaries between local communities and UNEP technical teams, and a feedback system ensures that all community concerns and priorities are reported back into the project.
Wherever possible, local communities are invited to take part in the environmental assessment. Paid contracts have been offered for over 25 posts, including sampling technicians, project support and logistics staff, and communications. All job vacancies were advertised locally. UNEP project staff are receiving training to enhance local capacity and promote skills transfer.
In addition, local guides and community volunteers provide invaluable support to the UNEP teams in the field, assisting with such aspects as installing groundwater monitoring wells, guiding scientists to oil spill sites and introducing UNEP staff to locals. A range of local suppliers are also being used.
Posters, monthly newsletters and educational items are being widely distributed among local communities, including through schools, churches, local government offices and the media. The project poster is available in English and each local Ogoni language.
Once UNEP’s environmental assessment report has been prepared, it will be made available to the public in print and online. This important document will serve as a key basis for stakeholder discussions on how to proceed with remediation and activities for sustainable development.
UNEP is also employing less conventional techniques to keep local communities informed and involved, including town criers and street theatre. See also News from the Field and Green Frontiers schools programme.