NALAS Presidents Meeting: Climate Change on Local Governments' Agenda in South-East Europe
It has now became a tradition that the Presidents of Associations of NALAS network get together annually to discuss and build common positions on priority issues. This year's meeting focused on Climate Change and was hosted by the the Romanian Association of Communes (ACoR), from 15 – 16 June 2012 at Danube Delta in Tulcea, Romania.
Driven by NALAS ongoing activities in the area of energy efficiency and prevention of climate change, but also inspired by the location, Danube Delta, a famous natural reserve with an exceptional preservation of biodiversity, the discussion focused on “Climate Change on Local Governments’ Agenda in South-East Europe”. Participants looked at the global trends in this area and discussed how the associations and local governments are positioning themselves to meet these challenges.
In his opening speech, NALAS President Mr. Ozgen Keskin said: "The topic of this year’s Meeting of NALAS Members’ Presidents was chosen with the concern of our own responsibility as decision makers and people who can make difference. Actions for preventing climate change and mitigating its effects should be taken now, today, by each of us regardless of our social status, gender, political beliefs, and it is because the consequences of the climate change affect us all. We, as mayors, will need to deal with these consequences at local level because we are the authorities closest to the people, and even though climate change is a global process, its effects have strong influence and affect and should be dealt with by the local communities".
NALAS’ members, the associations of local authorities, proved that they are aware of the challenges and are trying to contribute to the joint effort to mitigate the effects of the climate change. NALAS activities in this area include: the project Think Globally Develop Locally, the Covenant of Mayors to cover whole South-East Europe Initiative, the work of NALAS’ task forces on Energy Efficiency, Solid Waste and Water Management, and on Sustainable Tourism.
EXCHANGING LOCAL, REGIONAL AND GLOBAL EXPERIENCES
During the Presidents’ Meeting, NALAS presented the activities and results of the project “Think Globally Develop Locally”, implemented in partnership with UNDP, in Macedonia, Moldova and Kosovo. This project, being open to include other countries as well, raised high interest among participants. NALAS member associations from Macedonia, Moldova and Kosovo presented their Action Plans on Climate Change, exchanging valuable experiences with their fellow colleagues, while the Union of Municipalities of Marmara, presented the Climate Action Plan of Turkey.
Other presenters included: Ms. Daniela Carrington, from the UNDP Bratislava Regional Center, who focused on "How serious is the problem of climate change?". Ms. Viorica Bisca from the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve presented the Danube Delta and the climate challenges it faces. All NALAS members Presidents and directors took part in the discussions, sharing their local experiences to prevent climate change and their vision for the future.
CONTRIBUTING TO THE GLOBAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
This event was organized just days before world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, were about to come together on the other side of the world in Brazil for the biggest world summit in 2012, Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (20-22 June 2012) to discuss how to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.
As a contribution to the Rio+20 objectives, leaders of NALAS member Local Government Associations looked at the global trends in this area and discussed how local government associations from South-East Europe are positioning themselves to meet these challenges. NALAS members agreed to send a letter to United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), supporting their eight recommendations for Rio+20, and further enhancing them to emphasize the important role that local governments play in ensuring sustainable future for all.
"The role of local authorities and the processes of decentralization and consolidation of local autonomy at all levels (including communes and small towns) has to be recognized in the Rio+20 Conference Declaration, as this is a prerequisite for implementing direct changes in the local communities to deal with climate change.
Sustainable actions to deal with climate change by local authorities assume a very broad and multi-dimensional perspective, including creation of a whole spectrum of climate-friendly local environment, in partnership with other actors, such as the civil society and private sector. At the same time, this requires strong, autonomous and efficient local government, capable and motivated to use all available administrative and financial capacities conducive to real results multiplied by widest population involvement in solution of climate problems", stated NALAS letter to UCLG.
Letter: NALAS voice to Rio+20.docx
COVENANT OF MAYORS OFFICE TO COVER THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN THE WHOLE SOUTH-EAST EUROPE
During the NALAS Presidents Meeting, delegates reviewed the progress of the initiative for establishing a Covenant of Mayors Office that will ensure coverage of the Western Balkans region, as a follow-up of NALAS General Assembly held in Prishtina in March 2012.
With the current organization of the Covenant of Mayors, South-Eastern European municipalities from the candidate and potential candidate countries are excluded from the reach of a Covenant of Mayors Office in their region. For comparison, such offices are established or planned to be established for the neighboring countries from the Eastern Partnership and Central Asian Cities, and North Africa. Therefore, NALAS sent a letter to the President of the European Commission Hose Manuel Barroso to advocate for opening such an office and followed-up with the Director General of DG Enlargement Stefano Sannino and Mercedes Bresso, the President of the Committee of the Regions.
Participants agreed that NALAS should strive to conclude the process for establishing of Covenant of Mayors Office to cover the whole South Eastern Europe. The conclusions for the immediate steps that are to be taken include:
· The National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria will be proposed to lead the Initiative as Mr. Vladimir Moskov was the NALAS leader during whose presidency the initiative started.
· Mr. Vladimir Moskov will propose the initiative to be discussed at the relevant working groups of the Committee of the Regions.
· The mayors from the candidate and potential candidate countries for European Union membership who are Covenant’s signatories to start a petition which is to be presented to the European Commission.
OTHER NALAS MEETINGS
During the Presidents meeting, NALAS also organized a meeting of its Task Force on Association Development and a meeting of NALAS Liaison Officers. NALAS Liaison Officers discussed NALAS strategy 2013-2017, its sustainability, NEXPO 2013 that will be organized in September 2013 in Rijeka and Opatija in Croatia, and provided a peer review to the Romanian Association of Communes. Also, the Liaison Officers reviewed NALAS reports for the period January-May 2012 and discussed the key upcoming activities and partnerships.
EXPERIENCING DANUBE DELTA
The program of the event also included a boat trip that provided a unique opportunity to experience the highly diverse flora and fauna of Danube Delta, unique in Europe, hosting 23 natural ecosystems with numerous rare species. This area is particularly known for the highest concentration of bird colonies in all of Europe, including cormorants, pelicans, white tailed eagles and glossy ibises.
A SUCCESSFUL MEETING WITH EXCELLENT HOSTS
The Annual NALAS Members Presidents Meeting was hosted by the the Romanian Association of Communes (ACoR), who proved to be excellent hosts.
"Our Association is one of the newest members of NALAS, and for us NALAS has been a very useful experience, as well it is for other countries. Organizing the event itself, has been a great experience for our association and we are ready to offer to organize the next NALAS General Assembly here, in partnership with the Moldavian association", said Mr. Emil Draghici, ACoR President and a Mayor of Vulcana Bai Municipality.
Mr. Sergiu Tara, the Executive Director of ACoR adds: "We are very happy that we hosted NALAS Annual Presidents Meeting, that here in Romania gathered many NALAS member associations and their Presidents. We are very satisfied with the meeting which discussed many important issues related to climate change, but also NALAS future activities".
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE EVENT
"I'm very pleased with what I saw here, in the Danube Delta in Tulcea. This is a unique place, which very much correlates with what we were discussing during these two days. The natural heritage has to be protected not only here, but in the whole world. As we heard from one of the presenters, each day the World spends an energy equal to 400.000 atomic bombs. Each person on the Earth has to seriously think about what we do and how it affects our lives-that is why this topic is very relevant and important in general and in particular, in NALAS work. The conclusion I take from the meeting is the importance of the use of renewable energies, that won't pollute and will provide better and cleaner lives. We, the leaders, and important organizations like NALAS have to offer support to make this reality." (Mr. Ahmed Bashev, Vice President, National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria)
"This is my first experience with NALAS after NEXPO 2011 and from what I have seen I must say that I am delighted-the networking and exchange of experiences really enriched us. The NALAS task forces and all the knowledge they have produced is a valuable resource for the local authorities which has to expand in future, for the benefit of all associations and local governments". (Mr. Darko Fras, Vice President of the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia)
"It is important to raise the awareness of local governments about their role in fighting the climate change. In that respect, meeting in Tulcea organized by NALAS was of utmost importance. First of all it gave us the forum to discuss related issues and, second, it enabled us to hear how local governments in SEE are already fighting the climate change. Looking globally, this micro-effort is an excellelent cotribution to the global goals". (Mr. Mladen Ivanovic, Coordinator of the Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Croatia)
"For me the meeting on climate change was very informative, we found out more about the NALAS Project on climate change that is still open for other countries." (Ms. Vesna Travljanin, Director of the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina)
"I think it is very good that NALAS organized this meeting on the globally important topic of climate change, which has to be of interest for all of us in the countries of South-East Europe and their local self-governments. Presenters during the conference had very interesting presentations, while participants provided their contribution during the discussions. Some of the information we heard sound very alarming and we all need to do something to change world's environment". (Mr. Rajko Golubovic, Secretary General of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro)
"It is very important that NALAS decided to put this issue on its agenda. Dealing with issues related to nature, its devastation and climate change could not be dealt individually by countries, they go over regional borders and have to be jointly addressed. We at NALAS always aim to address issues that are joint for the Region, and what could be more important than the safety of the citizens of the region and living free of natural disasters. The presentations of the experts in climate change were very informative about the situation in the world, while we provided contribution on the situation in our region". (Ms. Ginka Chavdarova, Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria)
"The Presidents Meeting focusing on climate change was good, many experiences were shared. Our Association is leading NALAS Task Force on Energy Efficiency and is part of the "Think Globally, Develop Locally" Project financed by UNDP. We are about to finalize our strategy on climate change which is based on the National Strategy on Climate Change". (Mr. Sazan Ibrahimi, Executive Director of the Association of Kosovo Municipalities)