The REC implements a number of support projects in the countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE) to help environmental CSOs to address the main environmental challenges in the region, and to strengthen capacities and preparedness in the process of EU integration. In this context, the Regional NGO Forum on Turning Regional Challenges into Opportunities took place in Durres, Albania, on May 12-13, 2015. The event drew NGOs from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
The main objective of the forum was to discuss climate change-related challenges, along with ways in which NGOs can contribute to transboundary natural resources management.
The opening speech was delivered by Mihallaq Qirjo, director of REC Albania, the event's host organisation. He welcomed participants and thanked them for their willingness to engage in discussions. The REC's regional director for SEE, Gordana Kozhuharova, also delivered a welcoming address, briefly presenting climate change impacts and the initiatives that the REC has undertaken and implemented to tackle this global problem. One of the successful examples she highlighted is the integrated management of the Drini River, in the context of the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC).
Representatives of environmental organisations shared various case studies from their home countries regarding cooperation between communities and environmental NGOs on cross-border projects. Participants from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia presented their experience with river basin management plans in their country. A representative of the Macedonian organisation Eco Guerilla, Arian Xhaferi, emphasised the environmental problems facing the city of Tetovo as a result of illegally discharged pollution.
REC Serbia representative Ivana Tomasevic presented a simulation of climate change impacts, prepared in cooperation with a number of environmental NGOs from Serbia. Four other environmental organisations discussed their approaches to climate change issues in their countries and described the tools they use to cope with the situation. Boris Jokic from Eko Element, an NGO in Bosnia and Herzegovina, shared his experience with monitoring water resources and the impact that climate change has on these resources. Ermelinda Mahmutaj from EDEN Center in Albania gave the presentation "An Eye on the Environment", dealing with environmental watchdogging and other issues related to climate change. Green Home representative Azra Vukovic outlined a number of projects that her organisation has carried out in connection with energy efficiency in Montenegro.
The programme continued with presentations and group discussions, providing a good opportunity to share experiences and identify partners for the implementation of regional projects.
The event was organised in the framework of the programme Support to Civil Society Organisations in the field of Environment in Albania (SENiOR-A), implemented by REC Albania with financial support from the Government of Sweden.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.