In the context of the REC's long-term commitment to biodiversity protection, topic area activities focus on communication and information dissemination. The REC's country office network actively promotes public participation and provides assistance in the designation and management of territories and sites with natural values, for example implementing projects on transborder natural resources and Natura 2000. The topic area also contributes to shaping and implementing local, national and relevant international nature conservation regulations. Special emphasis is given to activities that support the development of rural areas in a way that benefits both the human population and nature, such as branding projects and capacity building for local stakeholders in the fields of sustainable agriculture and tourism.
A continuing challenge for the topic area is to further develop the REC's international profile as a centre of competence in the fields of communication, facilitation and education on biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources, while maintaining its involvement and networking in relation to key policy initiatives (e.g. EU initiatives, and the Black Sea, Green Belt and Dinaric Arc initiatives).
Its specific objectives are to:
- promote the integration of biodiversity and sustainable use concerns in education and rural development at both national and international level;
- translate field experience into new European biodiversity policies and legislation (beyond 2013);
- extend local support for the designation and proper management of new protected territories or zones by promoting the REC brand "Education for Natura 2000";
- strengthen the role of rural communities in the management of areas rich in biodiversity, including protected areas and Natura 2000 sites; and
- strengthen cooperation and the exchange of knowledge among REC country offices on issues relevant to biodiversity.
In keeping with the REC's traditional role, the topic area's work methodology is based on facilitating communication and the exchange of experience in order to reach consensus among different interests and development goals; as well as building the capacities of relevant players through training, publications, studies, exchange programmes and events. Key topic area activities include:
- Implementing awareness-raising campaigns and supporting effective communication with stakeholders and local communities to improve their understanding of and involvement in the management of territories, habitats and species.
- Assisting in the designation of protected areas (including Natura 2000 sites) and supporting the development and evaluation of management plans, nature conservation activities etc.
- Assisting in the implementation of national and relevant international (e.g. EC) nature conservation regulations and supporting relevant ongoing policy processes and the implementation of international conventions.
- Promoting and supporting the integration of environmental and nature conservation concerns into national and international agricultural policies.
- Helping to build the capacities of local stakeholders in relation to sustainable agriculture (organic farming and environmentally friendly agricultural practices/production methods).
- Supporting the development of sustainable tourism strategies and the marketing of tourism products.
- Assisting in the development of plans and environmentally friendly tourism products; supporting visitor management activities, education and communication; and building capacities for the branding of products from protected areas.