After a successful gathering in Athens beginning of 2020, and extensive online cooperation with over 10 online seminars, the participants expressed interest to convene again in person, while adapting to the current circumstances and adhering to the COVID-19 regulations. For our venue of choice, together with the activists, we decided on meeting in Mostar, which has been socially and environmentally deeply impacted by an illegal landfill Uborak (near the city). For two days, the FES SOE aimed to give participants a place to exchange experiences and best practice examples, and the opportunity to adapt strategies and use new tools in advocating for their causes.
The event opened on Friday, with welcoming remarks from Dr Ralf Melzer on behalf of the FES SOE, and Saša Vasić, FES SOE Project Coordinator that has been working with the activists during the past year. The remarks were followed by a presentation on „What's „green“ in the region?“ where attendees were invited to present the causes they have been fighting for in their countries and communities. Each participant showed great devotion and determination in achieving improvement and resolving the ecological disasters they are witnessing. The further objective of the gathering was to channel this devotion into forging strong regional networks and channels, to enhance the regional cooperation among the activists.
The gathering also featured a presentation by Selma Šehović (FES SOE) on Climate change and green transition in Southeast Europe, as a new avenue in which the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung will be actively contributing world wide. The event then featured inputs based on Igor Šoltes' experience on securing water as a fundamental right in Slovenia and a panel discussion on the „Constructions of mini-hydro plants“ that is becoming an increasingly large issue throughout the region.
On Saturday, the participants engaged in a workshop about utilizing social media and different digital tools, to improve their advocacy efforts and entice a broader audience to join their efforts. The workshop was followed by a presentation on why Mostar was an unfortunate but important example for the activists to see and in person. Amna Popovac, a politically engaged activist who has been fighting alongside with the citizens' initiative „Jer nas se tiče“, briefly, but thoroughly, explained the timeline and the increasingly detrimental existence of the Uborak landfill near the city of Mostar. The presentation featured truly terrifying accounts on how neglect and lack of political will to act has deepened the negative consequences for the environment and the health and wellbeing. The bizarre and sad irony shows the Uborak dump site being close to both vineyard and organic food factories, even tough it pollutes air, water and soil to a great extent. The activists joined Ms Popovac and citizens of Mostar on site of the Uborak landfill and yet again called for action by responsible authorities to finally resolve this issue, and relocate the landfill.
This unique agenda and gathering allowed the participants to learn, advocate, actively support regional initiatives and speak about their own experiences. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe plans on continuing such gatherings throughout the region in the following months, all with the aim of regional advocacy for a socially and environmentally improved region.
Related link: www.youtube.com/watch