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         9 September 2002

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

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the World Summit on Sustainable Development granted NOK 15 million (US$2 million) to the creation of a new United Nations University (UNU) operating unit located at UNEP/GRID-Arendal. This new unit will be responsible for the development of the Global Virtual University (GVU), 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 cooperating universities.

Hans van Ginkel, Rector of the UNU, welcomed the support of the Norwegian Government and stated, "This new initiative will build upon the work of the UNU on the virtual university which has been on-going since 1996. In particular, we see it has a great opportunity to harmonize the use of the best available educational technologies with high-quality course contents from UNEP/GRID and the UNU."

The GVU will offer education for the common future, providing scientific knowledge supporting the prudent management of the environment and helping to 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, and the 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 decentralized, with a focus on developing countries.

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

During the initial phase, the UNU operating unit in Norway and UNEP/GRID-Arendal will establish the GVU and will provide course materials based on their activities. The GVU is planned to grow into a network organization, 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 cooperating universities and research organizations. 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.

UNEP/GRID-Arendal will be the host institution for the UNU branch. Svein Tveitdal, Managing Director of UNEP/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 on 1 September by the Government of Norway, UNU and UNEP at a ceremony in Johannesburg at the World Summit for Sustainable Development.

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For more information please contact:
Deputy Director Harald Holt UNEP/GRID-Arendal, phone: +47 37035701, e-mail: (
Rector of AUC Ernst Håkon Jahr, phone: +47 38141000, e-mail:
Mayor of Arendal, Alf-Eivind Ljøstad, phone: +47 37013000, email:
For information from the United Nations University, please contact Brendan Barrett, Fellow, UNU/IAS, Tokyo, phone: +81-3-5467-2323, e-mail: (

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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. (

UNEP/GRID-Arendal (GA) is a Norwegian foundation established by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment to support the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). GA'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. GA is UNEP's key Polar centre for assessment and early warning, and also UNEP's key centre for information for decision-making. GA has an international staff of approximately 50 recruited from 15 countries. (

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 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. (




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