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UNEP receives satellite network that will revolutionize environmental communications

Note to Media

NAIROBI/GENEVA, 30 October 1997
A new era in environmental communications will be marked by Mr. Antonio Rodot, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), when he formally hands over, on behalf of the ESA member states, the Mercure satellite communications network to Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), on 5 November 1997 in Geneva.

As we move toward the 21st century, Mercure will improve UNEP's capacity to fulfill its responsibilities as the world's environmental voice. The satellite-based telecommunications network will mean that UNEP can provide up-to-date, easily accessible, well organized information and scientific data in a timely manner throughout the world. It will help generate greater awareness and understanding worldwide of environmental issues.

"Mercure will deliver significant returns in the form of improved communications services at reduced costs," said Ms. Dowdeswell. "In this time of UN reform, initiatives such as Mercure should be cited as a prime example 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."

With its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and offices located around the world, UNEP can now rely on a system in space, which will in particular benefit those countries that do not have sufficient telecommunications resources to meet environmental networking needs.

UNEP can now be accessed through the global Internet via UNEPnet and the Mercure system. This will support a new communications culture both within UNEP and with its many partners around the globe. In addition, Mercure will bring operational cost savings and will enhance the organization's capacity for facsimile, electronic mail and video transmission.

Mercure was born out of the ingenuity of a public-private sector partnership. An international industrial team was established to implement the Mercure network and the ESA was asked by the six contributing member states - Austria, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom - to manage the US$ 13.5 million investment for the initiative. Together, ESA, UNEP, the industrial team, and the network operator - Swiss (TELE) com (PTT) - have all worked together to make Mercure a reality.

The traffic hubs of the Mercure network are at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and at the UNEP Regional Office for Europe in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNEP Regional Offices and UNEP-GRID centres in the Western and Eastern hemispheres will be served respectively by Intelsat satellites located over the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

Thus far, the Mercure satellite dishes and facilities are being installed in 16 countries (Kenya, Bolivia, Cuba, Kazakstan, Nepal, Bahrain, Mozambique, China, Thailand, Russian Federation, Costa Rica, Niger, Vietnam, Austria, Norway, Switzerland) and eleven countries have already voiced their interest in hosting a ground station.

The ceremony will take place in the presence of over 150 delegates from the six contributing countries and many UN representatives and ambassadors from countries all over the world.

Note to journalists

Media interested in attending the handover ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva on Wednesday, 5 November 1997 should contact UNEP's Geneva office for accreditation forms.

More information on the Mercure project is available on the CD-ROM that will be distributed during the handover ceremony and on the Web site located at:

For more information contact:

Gertrud Attar,
UNEP's Regional Office for Europe,
Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +41-22-979-9234, Fax: +41-22-797-3464,

In Nairobi: Robert Bisset,
UNEP Media and Communications Officer
Tel: +254-2-623084, Fax: +254-2-623692,

UNEP News Release 1997/65

Wednesday 05 Nov 1997
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