Press releases

Friday 31 Jan 1997

UNEP and Kenya sign historic agreement for advanced satellite telecommunication system

Nairobi, 31 January 1997 -  The Government of Kenya and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have finalized an historic agreement to start operations of the Mercure satellite telecommunications system at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.

In a signing ceremony today at the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP, was assured that Kenya would seek authorization from the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization immediately.

Mercure (dedicated primarily to the transfer of electronic data services), will assure a robust, reliable global connection through the 'UNEPnet' system, a dedicated part of the Internet for the transmission of environmental data. Through a network of partner organizations, 'UNEPnet' will efficiently and effectively support UNEP's activities, particularly in developing countries.

"The advanced capability made possible through this system will better equip UNEP to fulfill its leadership role in providing up-to-date, easily accessible, well organized information and scientific data to the rest of the world via the global information highways" said Ms. Dowdeswell. "It will help generate greater awareness and understanding worldwide of environmental issues," she said.

Six European countries (Austria, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) provided the initial funding for the Mercure project. In November 1994, the Executive Director of UNEP signed an agreement with the Director General of the European Space Agency, the organization responsible for the design and development of the Mercure system. Implementation began in January 1995.

As a result of the dedicated capacity of Mercure, 'UNEPnet' will provide guaranteed delivery of and access to environmental data, without the congestion of the public Internet. It will make environmental information products and services accessible via numerous nodes in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. It will also cut costs.

"Mercure and 'UNEPnet' will deliver significant returns in the form of improved communications services at reduced cost," said Ms. Dowdeswell. "In this era of UN reform, initiatives such as Mercure will be cited as prime examples of what must be done in order to assure our sponsors that we are seriously engaged in processes to effect dramatic change in the way we conduct business in the United Nations," she said.

The nineteenth session of UNEP's Governing Council - a critical meeting for the organization - is currently being held in Nairobi. Ministers and high-level government representatives from over 100 countries are attending the two-week meeting which ends Friday February 7.

UNEP News Release 1997/5

For more information:

Robert G. Bisset
Media/Information Officer
Information and Public Affairs
United Nations Environment Programme
PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-2-623084
Fax: +254-2-623692
Email: Robert.Bisset@unep.org

Friday 31 Jan 1997
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