Transforming Planet – We were at the Environment for Europe Conference

From 5-7 October, WECF and partners participated in the Environment for Europe conference in Cyprus. We were happy to gather with longstanding partners such as Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) from North Macedonia, Black Sea Women’s Club (BSWC) from Ukraine and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), and engage as part of the European ECO Forum, an inclusive coalition of sustainable development NGOs.

The three-day conference had a specific focus on three key topics:

  • Sustainable Infrastructure
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Education for Sustainable Development

During the conference, we were grateful to meet with Ukrainian Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, Ruslan Strilets. The joint meeting was kindly set up by the EEB, and also attended by our partner from Ukraine, Svetlana Slesarenok from BSWC. We mentioned to the minister our involvement in environmental, water and sanitation and energy projects in the eastern European region and kindly recommended that all policies – specifically reconstruction efforts – are not only green, but also gender-just.

Furthermore, we met with Cyprus Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Costas Kadis. The present organizations thanked the minister for Cyprus’ support in funding civil society organizations to join the conference, as meaningful participation of a wide range of civil society organizations is crucial. We must look outside of our silos to create truly successful and inclusive policies. When discussing infrastructure for example – one of the topics of the conference -, different needs of different people need to be taken into account. When developing public transport, we need to think about factors such as: is it well lit so women will feel safe to even use the form of public transport?

Later that day, we put these words into action through an initiative of Friends of the Earth Cyprus, who arranged bikes to cycle to our side event. Jointly, we promoted safe, sustainable and inclusive infrastructure for walking, cycling and micromobility. The side event “Pathways for a people-centered energy transition: Large infrastructure development and Aarhus Convention rights” was well attended and included several tangible examples from different regions.

The conference concluded with the Adoption of the Conference Outcome, during which Rebecca Heuvelmans gave a statement on behalf of WECF. “Being able to safely raise our voice for environmental justice, is a right and a must for true progress on sustainable development.” The intervention stressed the importance of civil society for sustainable development, and the right for Environmental and Human Rights Defenders to raise their voice in safety. Read the full statement on our website.

Our partner Svetlana Slesarenok spoke on behalf of the European ECO-Forum: “There is nothing more unsustainable than war. There is no sustainability without peace, there is no peace without sustainability. We urge everybody to support green, sustainable and resilient reconstruction of Ukraine.”

The quote from Svetlana also inspired the title of the ECO Forum joint NGO Statement “No sustainability without peace – No peace without sustainability”. Find the full text with recommendations for the implementation of the outcomes of the 9th EfE Conference here.