News archive - Initiative: Strengthening capacities in the Western Balkans countries to address environmental problems through remediation

UNDP presents its biggest regional programme in SEE - the Western Balkans Regional Environmental Programme “Strengthening capacities in the Western Balkans countries to address environmental problems through remediation of high priority hot spots”.

The aim of the three-year, $15 million Regional Environmental Hot Spots Programme is threefold:

1. To enhance regional cooperation in the Western Balkans (by showing that this achieves better solutions to shared environmental problems which cross national boundaries, encouraging stronger regional cooperation in the future),
2. To improve living conditions in communities around targeted environmental hot spots through progress in clean-up (remediation) activities (both making measurable progress and communicating this to those affected),
3. To ensure control of existing pollution and prevent similar environmental mistakes happening in the future, through building up knowledge and capacity in the local communities and at the national level to solve these issues.

UNDP Montenegro initiated negotiations with the Royal Netherlands Embassy. With support from five other UNDP offices in the region, UNDP Montenegro prepared the Regional Environmental Hot Spots Programme, funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Belgrade and signed in October 2007.

Involving six countries/territories and covering nine environmental hot spots, this is the biggest regional programme UNDP has ever implemented in South Eastern Europe. As well as improving the environment in the degraded locations, it is also an opportunity for UNDP to position itself as an implementing partner for similar regional programmes/projects in the region, building upon its two important advantages – local presence and its knowledge base/network.

The locations were selected based on priorities jointly defined by the participants in this programme – governments and UNDP Offices in the region, including consultations with local Dutch Embassies and the civil sector in all the countries/territories. The criteria for selection of locations were potential or existing cross-border pollution/environmental impact of the hot spots, committment and priority that national governments attached to particular hot spots and their readiness to cofinance clean-up operations, availability of technical documentation, ability to establish partnerships including public and private partnerships, as well as readiness of local authorities and other interested stakeholders to take over the leading role in post-clean-up sustainable management.

The main partners of UNDP are the governments in the region, and within them a wide range of ministries. At the local level, municipalities (Mojkovac, Ugljevik, Tuzla), public utility “Vode Vojvodine”, Cantonal hospital, Agency for Public works, private companies (Romtrade Ltd., Farmakom MB Zajaca) and local communities are involved. Dutch Embassies in the region have nominated focal points that monitor project implementation. In addition, the Programme will aim to closely involve a network of regional and international experts, NGOs, the UN Environment Programme, EEA, OSCE, Regional Environmental Center, the European Commission and bilateral and multilateral donors as potential funding partners for further regional environmental activities.

Five of the nine pilot or demonstration projects are mining hotspots, most of them also identified as highest priority clean-up candidates by the EnvSec3 (Initiative) desk study and proposal on environmental security risk reduction from mining.

Altogether, this package represents a ‘cross section’ of the hotspot problems present in the region, each calling for its own tailor-made corrective actions—or at least a first step in the right direction. Success in cleaning up these locations is likely to not only improve the living conditions of the local population and surrounding area but to attract new regional investment and act as a showcase for other communities in the region on how to clean up as well as control and prevent environmental pollution and contamination.

Besides assisting the clean-up, this Programme will help communities to reflect, understand the development process, consider all costs and benefits and learn how their voice can be taken into account when investment decisions are made which involve pollution.

During the life of this Programme the regional center will organize three regional ministerial conferences. This year’s regional ministerial conference will happen in November and it is devoted to "Addressing Global Warming through pollution prevention, reduction and control". It will be a chance to present what has been going on in the Western Balkan region but also to hear about experiences in the bordering countries and wider, in EU countries. Environment knows no borders …

Source: UNDP website and presentation at Bled Forum in Slovenia

Entry created by Elke Dall on March 7, 2008
Modified on March 8, 2008