Charles Arthur

Podcast Interview

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BFP: What do you do?

CA: UNIDO is the specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability. The main part of my job is producing the organization’s two flagship publications: the quarterly discussion magazine, Making It, and the newsletter, UNIDO Times. I also run the Making It website, and edit promotional material put out by UNIDO’s small Advocacy and Communications Group.

BFP: What is the best part about your job?

CA: At UNIDO, I am involved with nearly all the pressing issues of the day. Climate change, the transition to a low-carbon economy, how to recover from the economic crisis, green growth and green industry, renewable energy, cleaner production, resource and energy efficiency, poverty reduction, CSR, youth entrepreneurship….you name it! UNIDO is so very relevant and so very important, especially given the state of the world today. UNIDO’s three mandates: poverty reduction through productive activities, trade capacity building, and energy and the environment, cover so many of the issues confronting, not just developing countries, but the whole world. It’s fantastic being part of the team highlighting all the great things that UNIDO is doing. For me, some of the exciting, tangible aspects of UNIDO’s work are:

• the Montreal Protocol, where over 100 countries have benefited from UNIDO’s support in phasing out ozone-depleting substances;
• the 50 national cleaner production and international technology centres established to support industries in their transition towards more sustainable patterns of production;
• the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, spearheaded by the UNIDO Director-General, which promotes energy that is accessible, cleaner and more efficient;
• the Green Industry Platform, which provides a framework for bringing together governmental, business and civil society leaders to mobilize action in support of greening the manufacturing process and creating green industries for production of goods and services for domestic use or export.

BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?

CA: UNIDO doesn’t have a high public profile, and even if people do know about it, then they don’t usually know what it does. I think the words ‘industrial development’ evoke images of factories and smokestacks, and this gives a false impression of the organization. While some of UNIDO’s work does focus on large-scale industrial plants, on manufacturing factories, a huge part of it is focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Rather than industry, a more accurate description of UNIDO’s area of work would be productive activities.

Just looking at recent examples of UNIDO projects in different regions of the world gives a fuller, rounder picture: in rural Sierra Leone, UNIDO is establishing mini-hydro-electric power stations to provide energy to improve irrigation and sanitation and to boost SMEs; in Lebanon, UNIDO helped found the Lebanese Packing Centre (LibanPack) to ensure conformity with international packing standards, safeguard consumer health and protect the environment; in Viet Nam, UNIDO is helping to develop a green branding concept for the country’s handicraft sector; and in Bolivia, UNIDO is implementing a programme to create economic activities for women living in extreme poverty.

BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What advice, would you give to others? / What is the secret of your success?

CA: One of the aims of UNIDO’s Making It magazine, of which I am the editor, is to show the breadth and scope of the issues that UNIDO is engaged with. It is not a magazine about UNIDO but about the issues. The current issue is about youth employment and entrepreneurship, the one before about health and industry, and before that about the low-carbon economy. Contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds, including government representatives, the private sector, and civil society. The magazine is now nearly three years old and the readership is growing rapidly. I am working to make use of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and this is proving to be an effective, cheaper and greener method of promoting the existence of the magazine than sending out print copies by post. The online pdf issues are getting between 60,000 to 100,000 reads per issue. I recommend tapping the potential offered by the Internet, especially as a way of raising awareness among young people.

BFP:If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?

CA:Before I came to UNIDO, I had a varied career, running my own business and then in journalism and activism, working as a freelance and as an advocacy campaigner focusing on the struggle for participatory democracy in Haiti. I think this has served me well, both in terms of helping me see things from a variety of perspectives and of having a better understanding of the reality of and reasons for poverty in the 21st century.

BFP: Finally; what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?

CA: Obviously I want the BFP community to get a better idea of what UNIDO does and to read Making It magazine! Specifically, I would like BFPers to know that UNIDO is increasingly working with companies and foundations to build partnerships that advance inclusive and sustainable industrial development, while simultaneously driving business value. UNIDO’s Business Partnership Programme harnesses the expertise, know-how and resources of the private sector to tackle important global industrial development issues.

I also value BFP because it gives me the opportunity to read about some of the initiatives being taken by the private sector and civil society, and the partnerships that are being developed to try and develop a sustainable future.

Editor’s Note:

Thank you to Charles Arthur for taking the time to do this interview.

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