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July 20, 2008

Bonn: Europe’s green events capital

When the United Nations (UN) established itself in Bonn in the 1990s, invited by the German Government, sustainable development was its key focus.

Today, the legacy remains, with 17 mainly sustainability-related UN organisations located in the city, which have proved a magnet for environmental events that have helped make Bonn the green events centre of Europe.

This year, 12 May marked the beginning of a month of UN sustainability conferences – a kind of green congress marathon that engaged thousands of delegates and proved to be a major success for Bonn's Berman Convention Bureau members, further strengthening the city as a definitive destination for green meetings.

First up, from 12 to 16 May, was the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety convention, closely followed on 19 May by the 9th United Nations Conference on Biodiversity staged by the German Environment Ministry, attracting 5,000 delegates.

Then came a preparatory conference focusing on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol hosted by the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC), which drew 2,500 people and started on 2 June.

Solid endorsements
The 9th United Nations Conference on Biodiversity took centre stage among these events, and was commended not only by the German chancellor and her environment minister, but also by the delegates themselves.

"In terms of delegate and overnight figures, this conference was the largest of its kind ever in Bonn," said a happy Tilmann Flaig, director of Tourism and Congress Bonn. "The beneficial impacts, especially of the speech by chancellor Merkel, generated priceless publicity for the city."

Hans R Schaden, director of Maritim Hotel Bonn, was also thrilled. "For over 10 years our spacious conference facilities have already been a regular venue for UN conferences,” he said. “The smooth organisation of this conference, also staged at Maritim, is further proof that Bonn has now become a major green meetings destination."

More to come
A further boost for the city is that the German Government is interested in attracting more organisations to the UN Campus, according to Alexander Saier of the UN Climate Change Secretariat (UNFCCC). "So there will definitely be more meetings and conventions on green topics in Bonn within the next few years, and a good meetings infrastructure is essential," he said.

This is good news for World Conference Center Bonn (WorldCCBonn), which will open an extension, including a four-star superior hotel, in late 2009.

"Many UNFCCC workshops and meetings will be spread over the year with 10 to 400 attendees," says Saier. "They will be accommodated increasingly in the WorldCCBonn's extension, which will provide us with major additional capacities."

Green outlook

Of course, with such an emphasis on environmentally-focused events in Bonn, it’s vital that the WorldCCBonn itself has a sustainable agenda.

"The sustainability topic is taken seriously and really practiced here,” said Matthias Schultze, vice president of SMI Hyundai Management, which manages the venue. “Bonn has joined the ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) city network and the City Climate Alliance. The Sustainable Bonn project, in which we also participated with the WorldCCBonn, puts sustainability into practice.

“Sustainability should not just be a conference topic, the organisation and staging of the events themselves should also be more environmentally conscious and environmentally friendly. Both ecological and economic aspects will be key for building our extension."

If, as Schultze suggests, Bonn can match its success at hosting events on green issues with truly sustainable facilities, then the city’s environment convention love affair looks set to continue.

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