The Big Tree Society


During the early part of 2009, Steve Wilkinson from the Doha English Speaking School, came to our office and suggested and discussed UNESCO’s capacity in establishing an environmental awards programme for schools in Qatar much like the one he had experienced in the UK.

We could also see that such a program is well compatible with our previous and planned activities regarding urban environmental enhancements, such as Better Buildings, and the Doha Green Conference, as well as a core activity of ours, partnership-based environmental stewardship.

We could also see that a programme which could provide an excellent set of guidelines to encourage student driven ecologically friendly projects and awareness amongst students is very much in demand in the region.  Nevertheless, there were many practical and cultural differences to be considered before such a programme could be implemented here in the region.  

There are many other ongoing programmes from a variety of different stakeholders already available.  All of these programmes will offer different views and pursue different tactics towards stimulating positive change.  Faced with such diversity we at UNESCO have no interest in competing for status nor do we have any interest in the recognition, we simply want long-term impact.

UNESCO is by its very nature an organisation of multiplicity. In the spirit of cooperation with our partners, we decided to provide a platform where schools can use whichever programme they feel most comfortable with, while still receiving recognition for their efforts towards improving our urban ecosystems, be it through recycling, energy awareness, even water efficient permaculture landscaping!  Furthermore, we are designing the programme to encourage the active participation of the private sector, so they can help either with technical advice, in kind contributions or financial support, either to the programme or to the schools.  

This means the process is simple, and it is simple for a reason.  If a programme is overly complicated, there is a great risk that it will discourage all but the most committed.  From our view, this only seeks to preach to the converted, when the challenge is to encourage others to join in.

The programme has been met with a resounding success in Kuwait. 

Thanks to the excellent cooperation with our partner Boubyan Bank, we celebrate the end of the 2nd year of the programme in Kuwait, where we are now proud to congratulate every one of the 128 schools of the Big Tree Society Kuwait Programme in 2013/2014.

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