As a recent Global Shaper, it was very satisfying to join the Shelter’s Mission on Solomon Islands. The ARCADIS team was composed by: Alex Velzeboer (Netherlands), the team leader and specialist in flood control and water management, José Henrique Lourenção (Brazil), specialist in urban planning and settlements upgrading, and myself, Fernando Leite (Brazil), sanitation specialist. Our objective was to provide technical assistance to UN-Habitat local consultants, Steve Likaveke and Donald Kudu, and to the climate resilience team from the University of Melbourne RMIT, Alexei Trundle (Australia) and Darryn McEvoy (Scotland).
The Solomon Islands is a country in the Oceania, consisting of a large number of islands. The capital is Honiara, located in Guadalcanal Island, the very location where the famous “Guadalcanal Battle” took place during the Second World War. Honiara is today the political, social and economic center within the country, hosting the parliament, an important hospital and the national university. Thus, it is not a surprise that the city has been and still is the destination of migratory movements since the last couple of decades. This sudden increase in the population of the city has caused many of the problems and challenges that are faced today, as urban planning, public policies and investments did not meet the requirements of this process. As a result, the provision of basic infrastructure (potable water, sewage collection and treatment, waste management, electricity, telecom, roads), traffic, environmental risks (floodings), housing policies, land title and availability are some of the issues to be addressed.
Our mission originates from the partnership between ARCADIS and UN-Habitat and is based on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim improving the quality of life universally and comprises several aspects, such as: education access, halving extreme poverty and improving housing conditions. In this context, our team is especially concerned and implicated in enhancing the conditions of life in informal settlements throughout the development of a master plan with a strong component of climate change risk management. The idea is that a pilot area will be the focus for this mission and the experience will be further applied and replicated to other areas in the city and, in the future, around the country. A huge responsibility.
For me, this was a once of a lifetime experience. If at a personal level, I benefitted greatly from the contact with the local population, which enlarged my view towards life and made me even more grateful for everything I have, at a professional level it was an amazing experience to “learn on the field” with such talented and skilful colleagues on the team, especially considering the local experience of the UN-Habitat consultants.
In a broader context, I can see how this opportunity is aligned with ARCADIS Strategy 2014-2018, as a diversified team is working and collaborating to provide the best advices to UN-Habitat and the local government to improve the quality of life of the population. Just after a couple of months after the Global Shapers face-to-face meeting, it was amazing to see how supportive my fellow Global Shapers were. It was great to meet some of them in Dubai on my way to Honiara and to receive that many inspirational messages.
A following up mission is scheduled to take place early this year. So, if you want to be part of Shelter as well, do not forget to apply for the program!
Fernando Leite, Global Shaper 2014, ARCADIS Logos Brazil