Activist Forum Tetovo: Grassroots Action for Green Change

From 16th to 17th of September, Tetovo (North Macedonia) hosted the Activist Forum “Grassroots Action for Green Change” organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The conference brought together activists and representatives of civil society organizations across the region. It was also the next in line of activists fora convened in the framework of the Democratic Left in Southeast Europe.

Gathering together civil society organizations, activist networks and individuals from across the region, the purpose of this regional activist platform was to create a common strategic reaction to crucial socio-ecological challenges and to identify opportunities for future change through organizing the interest of citizens.

The challenges of transition towards sustainable development, especially considering detrimental environmental trends, require robust and consistent attention and adequate responses by citizens. “What is needed for a just socio-ecological transformation in Southeast Europe? What are the opportunities and problems that activists in the region are facing? Does the small success of activists mean winning the battle against destructive environmental activities searching mere profit?”

These and more topics were on the agenda for dynamic discussions in what has been, symbolically, one of the most polluted European cities.

The sessions were also opportunities for sharing both positive and bitter experiences in grassroots and left activism while highlighting the essence for active and close collaboration with local communities. Xhaferi Arianit, who represented the NGO Eco Guerilla from Tetovo, showed how they managed to activate 8,000 citizens to take part in protests against air pollution in November 2014. These protests initiated the closing of a factory that was responsible for the bulk of air pollution in the city due to missing air filters.

However, in the discussions it became clear that partnership with political stakeholders can be a necessity, and that cooperation with establishment actors can be beneficial to the cause, as long as they ensure transparency and functionality of state institutions.

The participants also experienced the local eco scene in Tetovo, with discussions held at Tetovo University Park. Participants concluded that close cooperation between grassroots initiatives and platforms, such as the #DemLeft, on a variety of topics is needed to generate change towards a more sustainable future.

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