Humankind opened the Pandora’s Box and forgot about it. Comments made at the first EPAIU Eco-Conference held in Kyiv

On November 19, the First Annual Conference of the Initiative for the Environmental Organizations Development “Strong and Sustainable Environmental NGOs: Supporting Institutions and Practices” was held in Kyiv. During the event, more than 140 event participants discussed and exchanged ideas for a cleaner and more sustainable environment. The focus of the conference was on environmental organizations of Ukraine and strengthening their institutional capacity, as well as their challenges, needs and opportunities.

The focus of the conference was on environmental organizations of Ukraine and strengthening their institutional capacity, as well as their challenges, needs and opportunities.

The key questions discussed at the conference were as follows: What does it mean to be / how to become a professional environmental NGO? What meaning do civic organizations and state authorities attach to the concept of “professionalism”? What is the best way for them to cooperate?

“This is a very important topic for our Foundation. Civil society opens up a tremendous potential in the field of environmental protection, working together with the state and business to make sure that the generations today and tomorrow have a clean and healthy environment”, said Inna Pidluska, Deputy Executive Director of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Cecilia Kruna, Head of Reform Promotion Section at the Swedish Embassy in Ukraine, spoke about the pressure on eco-activists around the world and said we should think about how to protect them.

The first panel was devoted to how civil society can help improve environmental policies and practices, and the need for civil society institutions to strengthen their role.

The research team, including Svetlana Matus and Galina Levina, presented a basic study on the main environmental issues in the regions of Ukraine, the state of affairs with Ukraine’s environmental policy and the prospects for increased participation of civil society organizations in addressing environmental concerns.

The study was conducted on request of the International Renaissance Foundation’s Environmental Policy and Advocacy Initiative for Ukraine (EPAIU).

One of the aims of the study was to establish the number of civil society institutions that are “alive” and actively involved in addressing environmental issues today. The study discovered that 272 out of 1860 registered organizations are active. One of the criteria to determine if an organization is alive is the presence of constantly updated websites and accounts in social media, in other words, organizations’ active communication on their achievements and engagements. The study had helped to establish what opportunities exist for NGOs in terms of obtaining public funding and how NGOs actually used them.

The text of study will be later.

Other issues considered:

  • ● Synergy for the sake of environment: how / can environmental NGOs and entrepreneurs work together?
  • ● ECOLOGY less CORRUPTION: what might the future look like?
  • ● How will the CLIMATE CHANGE affect the ENVIRONMENT and HEALTH of HUMANS and COMMUNITIES? What can environmental non-governmental organizations do about it?

As Sviatoslav Pavliuk, the IRF Board member, rightly pointed out, we still seem to not understand the scale of the problem. Ultimately, within one week, we may first laugh at Greta Thunberg, and then, experiencing heavy smog in Kiev, come out in the streets with posters “cars are killing us”.

Pavliuk said several issues deserve our attention in the first place:

    • Environment and cleanliness cost money, in particular, we have to use cleaner technologies.
    • Public trusts NGOs more than the state authorities. Therefore it is very important that such organizations become more professional.
    • It is important to involve cities (i.e. administrations / mayors who will implement environmental programs) in this environmental dialogue. “At the moment they are not showing any sign of their engagement, however, they should be part of this dialogue”, – said Sviatoslav Pavliuk.

Salome Zurabishvili of Global Compact Network Georgia emphasized the importance of cooperation of all stakeholders, who influence environmental issues:

“Stakeholder cooperation has to be developed, as the government itself cannot objectively deal with all of the country’s environmental problems. It is also necessary to involve civil society, in particular NGOs, to constructive actions, so that they do not just to take the position of watchdogs”.

Although the opinions of the conference participants differed as to stakeholder collaboration (in particular, cooperation with business) and definitions of “NGO professionalism”, they all agreed on one point: the best time to take care of the environment is today.

The conference was part of the Environmental Policy and Advocacy Initiative for Ukraine, which is funded by Sweden.

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