Clean Up the World Campaign in Latin America and the Caribbean: Doing a lot with so little!

Clean Up the World Campaign in Latin America and the Caribbean: Doing a lot with so little!

By José Delgado Mendoza

For the problem of garbage there are no first, second or third world countries. It is an element that is permanently present and whose management is difficult to face unless public and private strategies are established that are equally persistent.

Aware of the importance of the subject, Clean Up Australia, an organization based in Sydney, after a successful experience cleaning garbage from Australian beaches, proposed to the United Nations World Environment Program UNEP, the realization of a world day for cleaning that allows open participation of groups of people from all countries.
This is how Clean Up The World was born in 1993, or better known in Latin America and the Caribbean by its Spanish name "To clean the World." The campaign that takes place every third weekend of September currently has the participation of 118 countries and more than 40 million volunteers.

A community action option

In difficult socioeconomic circumstances and many times under pressure from other overwhelming and severe problems such as environmental pollution, groups and institutions of various kinds in Latin America and the Caribbean respond with great interest and enthusiasm to the annual call for this campaign. .
These institutions, associations or local groups work voluntarily but in an organized way to solve - or at least try to do so - a problem that significantly affects their environment. Garbage is the subject that is most worked on, but for the campaign there are those who work in reforestation, in the recovery of playgrounds, or in education programs for recycling and responsible management of domestic and industrial waste.

For each town or city there may well be one or more groups that carry out their campaign focusing on the same or different environmental problems present in their locality. Many times the problem reaches regional levels and it is necessary to coordinate the day jointly between several local organizations.
The important thing is that whatever the problem or the strategy to be used to face it, the participation of the population is very enthusiastic and supportive.

The reason for the success of Clean Up the World

The objectives of the campaign are three and achieving them does not require large investments or complex organizational apparatus. On the contrary, they are established in such a way that any organization interested in "acting locally and thinking globally" can achieve them. These objectives that have allowed the success of the campaign are:

  • Unite citizens from all corners of the planet in a simple activity that will positively help their environment.
  • Share with all nations and cultures the information and practical experience developed by Clean Up Australia and other cleaning organizations.
  • Create in the media a national and international interest in cleaning activities and, in this way, awaken the awareness of governments, industries and communities on local environmental issues. Special attention is paid to minimizing waste, recycling, and proper and responsible ways of disposing of garbage.

The response of Latin America and the Caribbean to this campaign is exemplary, and its continuity and implementation have depended, in certain countries, on the contribution of local governments and private companies that consider it every year within their programs and budgets.

Organizing the day demands a lot of time and energy from each group and its coordinator. Everything is added to a communication strategy that allows the call to reach more people in less time and in a maximum of places.

Other results of the campaign

Cleaning up the World is not just a space to schedule a cleaning day. For many organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean and in other regions of the world, participating in organizing and running the campaign has enabled them to learn as they go.

The organization of a camp is a true training school, it allows to go through all the stages of an organizational process, from the diagnosis that allows the identification of a problem, its causes and possible solutions to the establishment of goals and solutions with their respective activities in the short, medium and long term.
For all this, in each activity of the process, community participation is essential and, if possible, the support of local governments and private companies.
The campaign, ally of the environmental management of governments and companies

For some organizations, the search for external support to finance certain expenses that the campaign demands has become a real lottery. Sometimes with great luck they succeed and many times not.

Little by little, however, companies and local governments, thanks to the dissemination of the results of the campaigns and of course to their own experience of observing their execution and results, have chosen to include them in their environmental management programs with citizen participation. and, for their part, private companies are designing advertising campaigns to support the organizations that carry out the Cleaning Day in exchange for spreading their products and the campaign itself.
With or without support from governments and companies, groups that already have experience in previous campaigns know (and spread it to those who start) that they must learn not to depend on external support. Many, the vast majority, work only with their own and minimal resources. However: They do a lot with so little!

Ecuadorian ecologist, currently resides in Switzerland. He coordinated the campaign in Ecuador from 1994 to 2000 and, in 2001, with the collaboration of GEN (Geneve Environment Network), he held, in the UNEP library in Geneva, an exhibition of photographs and texts on the work of Clean Up the World in Latin America and the Caribbean. Contact: [email protected]

The website dedicated to the Clean Up the World campaign in Latin America and the Caribbean - ALMALYC, is ,

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