The project "Environmental Lobbying and Advocacy CSO Network" (ELAN) was officially launched at a kick-off meeting held on February 22, 2018, in Sarajevo. The event brought together representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs), national and international organisations, embassies and government ministries in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Implemented by REC Bosnia and Herzegovina, the ELAN project is financially supported by the Government of Sweden. The main objective is to improve environmental governance by supporting the effective participation of CSOs in policy- and decision-making processes in the field of environmental protection, thus contributing to key reforms and the further transposition and implementation of the EU environmental acquis in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The project, which will run until December 2020, has a total budget of EUR 1.4 million, 65 percent of which will be directed towards strengthening the organisational capacities of CSOs and the implementation of their activities at local and national level. Support will also be given to the media, in order to ensure that members of the public are informed about environmental issues and solutions in a more objective and transparent manner.
Head of mission and director of REC Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms. Lejla Šuman, opened the kick-off event by stressing that projects of this kind should contribute to stronger links between the public and civil sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since cooperation is the key to solving numerous problems, and investment in environmental protection is an investment in the future of every individual and every country. "The lack of political dialogue with civil society in general, as well as in the field of environmental protection, and insufficient public participation in the decision-making process, contribute to general dissatisfaction with the authorities. In modern European societies, the active participation of citizens is developed through various mechanisms of participatory democracy that make it possible to find sustainable solutions through dialogue among citizens, authorities, experts and interest groups", added Ms. Šuman.
Ms. Marie Bergström, deputy head of mission and head of cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden in Bosnia and Herzegovina, spoke about the goals of the Swedish Strategy for the Western Balkans 2014-2020 and expressed her satisfaction that Sweden is able to support the strengthening of democratic processes and accountability systems in order to achieve better outcomes and development in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"Sweden is very proud to cooperate with the Regional Environmental Center. The Swedish Government considers the environment a very important matter, and the project that is starting today is a really good combination of assistance from international organisations towards the environmental sector", explained Ms. Bergström.
Ms. Suada Numić, national focal point for the Aarhus Convention in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressed the importance of updating the existing CSO registry: "According to the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2,344 non-governmental organisations were included in the register of associations, foundations, foreign international associations and foundations and other non-profit organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2017. However, only a collective register exists, meaning there are no data on the number of non-governmental organisations registered with the competent ministries and courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and no separate data on those dealing with environmental issues. In this context, the ELAN project is of even greater significance, as REC Bosnia and Herzegovina has published on its website a call to environmental CSOs to participate in the research being conducted to update the existing CSO registry and to assess the needs and problems of CSOs in the field of environmental protection in the country."
The kick-off meeting concluded with an expression of positive hope that the project will improve cooperation, create opportunities for constructive dialogue, and yield valuable results through the successful efforts of all stakeholders.