Let’s strengthen the environmental dimension of the ECPD!

Statement made by the director of the International ECPD Institute Mr. Janez Podobnik at the ECPD International conference ‘’National and Inter-Ethnic Reconciliation, Religious Tolerance and Human Security in the Balkans’’ on Brioni Islands (Croatia), October 29-30, 2009

In the autumn of 2009 a new institution has opened its doors in Ljubljana – The ECPD International Institute for Sustainable Development, Urban Planning and Environmental Studies. The ECPD International Institute is the first ECPD institution in Slovenia.

The Institute’s activities will be focused on presenting the importance of improving the quality of living through sustainable development. Development cannot be measured only by economic indicators (such as GPD per capita). Instead it must include improvement in all dimensions: economic, social and environmental. And this can only be achieved through practices of sustainable development.

Slovenia presents itself as a logical host for the Institute’s headquarters. The activities of the ECPD are primarily focused on the transition economies of South-Eastern Europe and Slovenia with its numerous connections since the times of the former Yugoslavia still has understanding and interest in the region. On the other hand, Slovenia presents itself as a country deeply involved in the European and Trans-Atlantic integrations. It has successfully not led the Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2008, but also chaired other international organizations (OSCE and currently The Council of Europe).

Sustainable development brings not just environmental benefits but also social and political stability. This is especially important in the politically unstable regions such as the West Balkans. I believe sustainability must be seen in a broader perspective: as a way of promoting ‘’green’’ technologies, new job opportunities, international and interregional cooperation, improving social cohesion. Thus, politics of sustainable development may in the future not only help the Balkan countries in building ‘’greener’’ economies, but through concrete projects also in creating new interregional and international bonds. In this context I would like to remember all here present to the statement made by prof. Arthur Lyon Dahl. He stressed the importance of environmental diplomacy. I share his views regarding the need for the ECPD to include this important environmental dimension in its work for reconciliation, religious tolerance and human security in the Balkans.

The current global economic and financial crisis has showed us the interconnectivity of the modern world. The crisis affected us all. The countries with once highest growth rates – among many from the Balkan Peninsula – plunged into recession. The current model of highly liberalized free market economy has reached its limits. The model has failed in assuring long-term economic growth that wouldn’t cause social and environmental upheavals. Countries have instead experienced social disintegrations and environmental degradation.

Sustainable development as a solution doesn’t mean ‘’zero economic growth’’. This model simply brings new dimensions into industrial and development policies of today. It emphasizes the importance of energy supply from more durable sources. In brings into the limelight the (political) importance of a healthy and stable national food supply. It shows new possibilities for industrial development through recycling and conservation of energy. And this together can bring social and political stability – from local communities through, regions to national and finally international level. The local communal level is sometimes the best platform on which the first positive changes can be achieved. Good praxis leads to new ideas in other communities and slowly spreads to a higher regional or national level. The important thing is to show that sustainability isn’t an obstacle to the development. Instead, it can be the trigger/impetus that creates new ideas and solutions. In this perspective I would like to support statements made earlier today by dr. James Korovilas, where he focused himself on greenfield investments in renewable energy; he stressed that the Western Balkans region has a great potential to attract international investors either for production of renewable energy or manufacture of renewable energy equipment.

The ECPD Institute will seek to promote the politics of sustainable development in the region especially through neighboring policies of good cooperation. The idea of sustainable development (especially its international component) can also be an important factor in bringing stability and peace to the Balkans region. The ECPD Institute believes cooperation on the field of sustainability across national borders in the region, can become a great support to the peace progresses, and bring its share to reconciliation in the Balkans.

Upcoming International ECPD Institute events and activities: