The ENVSEC Regional Desk Office for South Eastern Europe (SEE), hosted by the REC, convened on March 31 and April 1, 2014, in Podgorica for its annual ENVSEC Regional Meeting. The first annual meeting of ENVSEC took place 10 years ago, and this was the first to be held in Montenegro.
ENVSEC partner organisations have ushered in a new decade of work in the region through a multi-annual regional programme with the support of the Austrian Development Agency, the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation.
More than 100 participants -- including high officials from the host country, national focal points from the SEE region, international organisations, academia, civil society organisations, corporate leaders and other partners -- found the regional meeting a perfect occasion to acknowledge the relevance of and progress made in addressing environment and security risks.
One of the key points of the meeting was to stress that regional cooperation is a key generator of political stability and economic progress in the region, and also contributes solid support to SEE countries in meeting the demanding requirements of EU membership.
Branimir Gvozdenovic, Minister for Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, noted in the opening session that "through concerted action and cooperation of the ENVSEC partner organisation, ENVSEC had provided significant support to national efforts aimed at resolving the problems of industrial pollution, waste management, improving the system to adapt to climate change, and managing transboundary river basins and protected areas." He called on the donor community for "stronger support for the countries of South Eastern Europe in overcoming regional development disparities and achieving further progress in the transformation of the risk of environment and security into benefits of cooperation in a cross-border and regional context."
The high-level opening panel featured UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro Rastislav Vrbensky, and Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Montenegro Waldemar Figaj. The speakers underscored the added value of ENVSEC, which unites six partner organisations in a coordinated manner, enabling all parties to achieve identical long-term objectives through an extensive network of stakeholders. This in turn provides a platform for regional cooperation to assess and address environmental challenges that threaten security, social stability, human health and livelihoods.
The event included a working meeting of the ENVSEC national focal points representing ministries of environment and ministries of foreign affairs from each country in the SEE region. The chair of the ENVSEC Management Board and executive director of the REC, Marta Szigeti Bonifert, thanked the focal points -- the "backbone of ENVSEC" -- for their commitment to the planning and monitoring of the ENVSEC work programmes and projects, and for providing complementary expertise.
The working meeting and subsequent world café reconfirmed the priority areas for ENVSEC actions in SEE for increased regional cooperation, namely:
- management and reduction of transboundary risks from hazardous activities;
- management of shared natural resources;
- strengthening environmental governance through participatory and informed decision-making and implementation processes; and
- adaptation to the impacts of climate change for reducing security risks.
A roundtable discussion with representatives of the Regional Cooperation Council, the Union of the Mediterranean, DHI Group and the Global Fire Monitoring Center showed new opportunities for ENVSEC to synergise with partners for greater efficiency; to expand with recognised tools and methods that are applied in other regions; to mainstream disaster risk reduction, management and preparedness; and to support political instruments and processes, such as the SEE 2020 Strategy, with ENVSEC expertise for orchestrated activities that can catalyse resources and strengthen the region.
The ENVSEC programme in SEE for 2012 to 2015 is currently funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) with funds from Austrian Development Cooperation, while additional financial resources are made available for selected activities by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Swiss Development Cooperation.