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New Global Virtual University to promote environmental and development education.

Norway grants NOK 15 million (US$2 million) to a new United Nations University (UNU) branch hosted at GRID-Arendal

Norway grants NOK 15 million (US$2 million) to a new United Nations University (UNU) branch hosted at GRID-Arendal

1 September 2002 Johannesburg, South Africa - In an agreement signed today at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs granted NOK 15 million (US$2 million) to the creation of a new United Nations University (UNU) branch at GRID-Arendal: the Global Virtual University (GVU). The GVU will be implemented by a core partnership between UNEP/ GRID-Arendal, the Agder University College and the UNU. These core partners will together establish the international network of co-operating universities.

The GVU will offer education for the common future, providing scientific knowledge supporting the prudent management of the environment and help map out national and regional pathways to sustainable development. The studies will increase people's sensitivity to, and involvement in, finding solutions for environment and development problems, develop expertise to understand the potential and the limits of the environment, and foster ethical awareness, values and attitudes, skills and behaviour needed. The courseware will be developed in a collaborative, global network of academic institutions, and the studies will be on-line and decentralised, with a focus on the developing countries.

UNU Rector Hans van Ginkel thanked the Norwegian Government saying "this initiative represents a very substantial addition to UNU's ongoing work to apply the best available technologies to global educational needs."

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director UNEP, says "Raising of environmental awareness among the peoples of the world is one of our responsibilities. I believe the GVU, generously backed by the Government of Norway, will advance this important area of our work and raise among students and academics world-wide, awareness and knowledge of the UN's vital work in the areas of environment and sustainable development"

"GVU will expand our already existing international network of universities and excel our capacity in e-Learning," says Ernst Håkon Jahr, Rector of Agder University College.

During the initial phase, the UNU branch in Norway and GRID-Arendal will establish the GVU and will provide course materials based on their activities. The GVU is planned to grow into a network organisation, which will focus on education based on e-Learning and will support and build competencies related to sustainable human development in developing countries through partnerships with co-operating universities and research organisations. New information and communication technologies will be used in order to bridge the digital divide and to deliver up to date access to quality learning across wide geographic regions at reasonable costs.

The GVU partnership is supported by the Norwegian Governement, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations University in Tokyo.

Svein Tveitdal, the Managing Director of GRID-Arendal, says: "The branch will strengthen our institutional network and open a new channel for UN's environmental information to managers and decision-makers of tomorrow."

The mayor of Arendal, Alf-Eivind Ljøstad, is very pleased and says: "The GVU will strengthen the profile of Arendal as a place with many UN activities and will put Arendal firmly on the map as an international academic town."

The agreement on the Global Virtual University was signed by the Government of Norway, UNU and UNEP at a ceremony in Johannesburg at the World Summit for Sustainable Development today. Hilde Frafjord Johnsen, the Minister of International Development in Norway, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, Hans G.A. van Ginkel, Rector of UNU, and Ambassador Milos Alcalay, Chairman of Group 77 and China all participated.

For more information please contact:

Deputy Director Harald Holt GRID-Arendal,
phone: +47 37035701, email:,

Nick Nuttal, UNEP Head of Media
Phone: +27 11 (0) 72 5338239

Rector of AUC Ernst Håkon Jahr,
phone: +47 38141000, email:

Mayor of Arendal, Alf-Eivind Ljøstad,
phone: +47 37013000, email:

For information from the United Nations University,
Terry Collins, mobile phone (during WSSD): 083 296 3182, after Sept.8:+1 416 538 8712

Brendan Barrett, Fellow, UNU/IAS, Tokyo,
phone: +81-3-5467-2323, email:;,

Note to editors:

The Norwegian Government is Mr. Kjell Magne Bondevik's second government. It was appointed by the King on 19 October 2001. It is a minority government representing the Christian Democratic Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.

GRID-Arendal ( is a Norwegian foundation established by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment, to support the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). GRID-Arendal's role is to provide decision-makers and the public with improved access to high quality environmental data and information, and to strengthen UNEP in expanding the use of such information for awareness raising, policy-making, and action. The core competences are environmental information management, capacity building and communication. GRID-Arendal is UNEP's key Polar centre for assessment and early warning, and also UNEP's key centre for information for decision-making. GRID-Arendal has an international staff of approximately 50 recruited from 15 countries.

The United Nations Environment Programme (, established in 1972, works to encourage sustainable development through sound environmental practices everywhere. Its activities cover a wide range of issues, from atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems, the promotion of environmental science and information, to an early warning and emergency response capacity to deal with environmental disasters and emergencies. The mission of UNEP is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of the future generations.

The United Nations University's ( mission is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States. The University has four key roles, which are to be an international community of scholars, a bridge between the United Nations and the international academic community, a think-tank for the United Nations system and a builder of capacities, particularly in developing countries.

World Summit for Sustainable Development Side Event: "E-learning for Sustainability - New Opportunities for Capacity Development and Distance Education". Agenda

Side event flyer

More background information on the GVU

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