Continuing their cooperation in organizing events of interest to the Filipino communities in Austria, PACES and the VIC Club Filipino (VIC CF) jointly sponsored a virtual lecture by Zoom on the topic “UNIDO’s environment-related technical cooperation projects: Making a Difference a Person at a Time.” The lecture was delivered last 25 January 2022 by Dr. Carmela Centeno, an Industrial Development Officer and project manager at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Dr. Centeno obtained her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of the Philippines (UP), and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from De La Salle University (DLSU). She also took postgraduate studies at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Dr. Centeno is a recipient of The Outstanding Thomasian Alumni (TOTAL) award for ecological and environmental conservation from UST.

PACES President Marizel Magistrado Rojas and VIC CF President Concepcion Segura warmly welcomed participants from Europe and the Philippines that included UNIDO project counterparts in the Philippines. Speaking on behalf of PACES, Ms. Rojas noted that the lectures are intended to aid in the dissemination of scientific and technological information to Filipinos and Austrians alike in Europe, to promote awareness and appreciation of the scientific abilities of Filipinos working abroad, and to inspire the younger generation of Filipinos towards career possibilities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), including in the scientifically oriented U.N. agencies based in Vienna.

Dr. Carmela Centeno, UNIDO Industrial Development Officer

Dr. Centeno, a member of UNIDO’s Industrial Pollution Mitigation Division under the Department of Environment, spoke on the Department’s role in contributing to inclusive and sustainable industrial development by improving the environmental performance, resource productivity and safety of existing industries, as well as by supporting the creation of new industries providing environmental goods and services, while at the same time integrating social issues into UNIDO technical assistance projects.

The Department plays an active role in implementing several multilateral agreements relating to the environment, such as:

  • the Montreal Protocol, ratified by all 198 U.N. Member States, that regulates production and consumption of ozone depleting substances;
  • the Basel Convention that aims to control transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes; and
  • the Stockhold Convention on persistent organic pollutants; and the Minamata Convention on mercury.

Dr. Centeno presented success stories of UNIDO environmental projects that have made significant social impacts in Asia and Africa. Projects in southeast Asian (including in the Philippines) and Southern African Development Community Member States reduced the open burning of wastes by establishing sustainable material recycling facilities that also created job opportunities for the informal sector in the local communities. A particular example in the Philippines is the recycling and safe disposal of electronic components that also generates jobs for women.

She referred the audience to a documentary on this topic by documentary producer Atom Araullo entitled “Baklas” aired in 2021 by GMA Public Affairs. In Sri Lanka and other countries, UNIDO projects are helping safeguard workers from the hazards of handling highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), a persistent organic pollutant whose production is now banned by the Stockholm Convention. These projects create jobs by engaging the local communities, including women, as well as eliminating child labor.

Alluding to the title of her talk, Dr. Centeno reminded the audience that to save the environment “one person can make a difference” as suggested by the name U-N-I-DO (“You and I Do”).

Established in 1966 and based in the Vienna International Centre, UNIDO is the U.N. specialized agency with the mandate to promote industrial development through economic competitiveness, shared prosperity and environmental sustainability. UNIDO’s mission is to foster the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal No. 9 “Industry, innovation and infrastructure” by promoting and accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development in its 170 Member States. In this work, UNIDO has set four strategic priorities:

  • Creating shared prosperity;
  • Advancing economic competitiveness;
  • Safeguarding the environment; and
  • Strengthening knowledge and institutions.

Ambassador Sulpicio Confiado, Assistant Secretary in the DFA Office of Financial Management Services, who is a founding member of PACES, applauded the work of UNIDO in his closing remarks.  Ambassador Confiado related that both he and PACES Vice President for Internal Affair Priscila Ramo-Confiado started their careers working with NGO’s in grass roots development. After more than 30 years, the concerns and issues presented by the speaker have remained the same. NGO’s implement projects by pilot areas, so there was little impact on the greater community.

He expressed the hope that UNIDO will see the need to upscale the implementation of its projects by expanding to several areas. He also suggested that values formation should be included in the technical training of national partners, even down to the level of local government units.

— by Dr. Efren Abaya