The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe
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Sustainable Development Academy

Years of implementation:
2004–Present

Key donor and concept developer:
Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS)

Additional donors:
The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs; BG Group

Sponsors:
AT&T; DEIK (Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey); ISTAC Co.; Bedol; Reware; ATP; KPMG

Sustainable Development Academy

“The seminars organised by the REC and VIU are a unique opportunity for experts from institutional bodies and NGOs to learn about and discuss the latest news and policy instruments in the field of sustainable development and climate change. Professional approach, warm and friendly atmosphere, encouraging exchange and debates between Black Sea country nationals with one concern, cosy accommodation, exquisite cuisine, stunning sites to visit, and much, much more to be translated into proper action with a message: Act together!”

Cveta Dimitrova, Director, European and International Projects Directorate, Ministry of Environment and Water, Bulgaria

Background
Although economic growth and environmental protection have traditionally been regarded as irreconcilable goals, a new paradigm is gradually emerging with the concept of sustainability, in which development is redefined as comprising environmental, economic and socio-political aspects in the interests of the more rational use and management of the world’s natural resources.

In order to achieve sustainability, action is needed, especially at the political level, to promote the necessary technical counter-measures in response to the devastating impact of our lifestyles on the planet. Firm commitments are needed in order to ensure the implementation of policies, development strategies and plans. Lack of leadership, knowledge, skills, determination and courage must also be addressed through education, capacity building and awareness raising.

In response to this challenge, the REC established a targeted programme, the Sustainable Development Academy (SDA), which is designed to build the capacities of key leaders in the fields of politics, public service, business, NGOs and the media, while at the same time forging partnerships between these groups and academia. The SDA programme moves the focus of the debate from how to remedy the results of poor management, to how to put in place preventive measures.

Objectives
The SDA focuses on:

  • Leadership — in order to strengthen the potential of national and local government officials and business representatives.
  • Tools — to enable participants to initiate and implement national policies promoting sustainable development.
  • Networking — to facilitate dialogue, experience exchange and cooperation among participants.
  • Raising awareness — of the need to improve the allocation of resources for environmental protection and rehabilitation, access to environmental information, the capacities of local institutions, and the harmonisation of economic, social and environmental policies.
  • Drawing attention — to the possible long-term negative consequences for the environment of decisions that favour short-term economic benefits.
  • Curricula — and the development of high-quality training materials for teaching the concepts of sustainable development and their utilisation in practice.

Activities

Regional courses
Since the SDA programme was launched in 2004, almost 20 courses, attracting around 500 participants, have been delivered in Central and Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe and the Visegrad countries, Central Asia, the Black Sea region, Turkey, and the Russian Federation.

Participants have included senior representatives of cities, local communities, regional and national governments, associations of towns and municipalities, regional development agencies and relevant businesses. Also, a valuable network of participants has been created in order to promote local and regional solutions for sustainability.

Certificate programmes
The aim of the certificate programmes is to focus on developing the necessary skills and competencies to face the growing number of social, economic and environmental challenges in today’s competitive environment. The first certificate programme, on the theme of corporate social responsibility in the private sector, was developed in 2008 in cooperation with Bogazici University, Turkey.

Living Laboratories
A new type of course, integrated within the SDA framework, was launched in 2012. Living Laboratories: Resilience and Sustainability of Municipalities is designed to prepare local communities to be resilient in the face of crisis.

The idea is to enable discussions, within a “living laboratory”, on how to improve the endurance, flexibility and adaptive capacity of communities and to assist them in implementing concrete actions to achieve this goal. The course is aimed primarily, but not exclusively, at alumni of previous SDA courses who are working in municipalities, local communities or small regions, or at national level with direct responsibility for municipalities or small regions.

IMELS support and impact
The Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) is actively engaged in the field of education for the environment and sustainable development. By implementing a series of international programmes for environmental cooperation and education, involving the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and beyond, IMELS is contributing to the process of turning environmental protection into an opportunity for economic and social growth in these countries. Italy has been the main donor of the courses for sustainable development since 2004. The results achieved by the programme highlight the importance of the ministry’s involvement in the broader environmental scene. In order to ensure the professional standard and successful outcome of each specific course, IMELS has allocated the funds for implementation to the REC and Venice International University (VIU) and undertakes continuous monitoring and supervision.

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