Tbilisi+35: 'The future we want'

September 10, 2012

REC delivers statement Tbilisi+35 Conference on Environmental Education for Sustainable Development

Statement delivered on September 7, 2012 by Kenty Richardson, Director for International Affairs and Strategic Development

"Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It's an honour for me on behalf of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe to be in Tbilisi. Tbilisi77 became the landmark of all environmental educators: where to start the journey changing minds for changing the world towards 'the future we want'.

The Regional Environmental Center was established by the United States, the European Union and Hungary in 1990. It was created as a transformational tool to support better environmental and participatory governance for the benefit of democracy and to bring high European environmental standards to our regions. Today, the Regional Environmental Center is legally based on a Charter with over 30 signatories and an office network in 17 countries.

After 22 years of operation and running more than 4,000 projects valued at close to EUR 200 million, our international organisation is a successful case study that has led to the creation of other environmental centres, such as REC Caucasus and CA-REC.

At the heart of our activities is capacity building to move forward in line with new legislation, new requirements and processes toward a sustainable future in our region. We understand education for sustainable development as a main driving factor of change. On this particular field, allow me to mention two of our flagship projects.

The Green Pack is a multi-media environmental education curriculum kit primarily intended for primary schools. It is at present available in 18 countries and used by close to 40,000 teachers and 4 million students.

BRIGHT PROSPECTS: The REC brings its influence to the storied, colourful city of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The Sustainable Development Academy offers a comprehensive capacity-building exercise for high-level governmental and local authority officials at both horizontal and regional levels. Some 20 courses have been offered to 500 participants with the support of the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea. According to the president of our General Assembly, Minister Corrado Clini, 'the Academy is the culmination of several years of experience of courses, partnerships, networking and awareness raising across borders and regions, and among governments and institutions to facilitate the path towards sustainability in an awareness of the role of the planet's environment as basis of social prosperity.'

We should look to environmental education and education for sustainable development as a sphere with many layers. The nucleus is constituted by formal, non-formal and informal environmental education and education for sustainable development. The second circle covers capacity building as a natural extension understood lately as enabling all stakeholders (national and local authorities, civil society organisations, universities and businesses). Awareness raising and promoting access to information have become the last two layers of this circle. Now, the internet and new information technologies have radically changed the way we communicate in a global interactive world where each of us are in network with the rest of the world.

Kenty1After 35 years of technological change and the proliferation of a huge terminology - from pollution to eco-efficiency to resilience, from acid rain to climate change, from environmental protection to sustainable development and to green economy - we have been able to improve our understanding of the challenges we are facing and to solve some of them. But, in general, the results of our policies are washed away by the intensity of our unsustainable patterns of development and the increasing complexity of the problems we are facing.

In order to leverage our environmental policies as a driver of a new model of development we need to open our closed circle of environmental experts, not only bringing new interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary perspectives, but also positioning education, capacity building and awareness raising at the core of our policies. We have to create as much complicity as possible with all citizens and stakeholders if we want to reach critical mass for radical change.

The Regional Environmental Center stands ready to contribute to the success of the ongoing UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development and to bring its 22 years of expertise across the region to support these needs towards a green evolution from our minds for a better world from Tbilisi77 to Tbilisi 2012 and beyond.

Allow me to thank the Government of Georgia for hosting and promoting this very crucial event."

kenty_smallKenty Richardson is by training a lawyer and holds a degree in international law from the University of Aix-en-Provence and three postgraduate degrees: in European law from the College of Europe; in environmental law, combined with a diploma in environmental pollution, from the University of Strasbourg; and in environment and economics from the University of Barcelona. He joined the REC in 2009.