Milieukontakt Albania initiates partnerships to improve the quality of life by enhancing people’s participation in the development of ecologically sustainable societies.
Milieukontakt cooperates with (inter)national partners because environmental problems do not stop at borders. Many of the current environmental challenges are worldwide. On the local level people can be supported and learn from the experiences of others working in other parts of the world with the same problems. Milieukontakt connects people, organisations, and networks that deal with the same challenges and want to cooperate towards enhancing people’s participation in defining their own future. Milieukontakt will provide people with the means and skills to actually use the possibilities for participation, including training, (legal) advice and assistance. Participatory decision-making processes are essential in these partnerships. Milieukontakt focuses on the development of tools for participatory learning, decision-making, and project implementation.
- Building capacities
Being an environmentalist means life-long learning, and that is what makes it so interesting! To be effective, an environmental movement requires a certain set of skills that is not easily learned at school or university. Environmentalists have to know about the wide range of subjects covered by ‘the environment’. Energy, climate change, waste, water management, sanitation, chemicals, and agriculture are some of the issues with totally different content. You also have to keep up with developments in scientific and political circles. These days, it is all about climate change and what it will or will not bring in the future. You have to keep your knowledge up-to-date to be a partner with governments and other stakeholders. Besides this knowledge on global issues, you have to know what is going on in your country, region, town or village to be effective in your actions. This means that environmentalists are constantly learning and adapting scientific knowledge to their own day-to-day work. They have to be able to translate this knowledge into policy and actions. Communication skills are essential, as are legal expertise and negotiating skills. You sometimes have to go to court or negotiate if you cannot reach your goals in any other way. There are many, many other areas in which environmentalists have to train themselves to be effective, like being a good manager, planner, project leader, professional, and knowing how to get all the work financed.
- Involving citizens
There is hardly any field except environmental policy in which the involvement of citizens is so vital to the success of government policy. Many policy matters deal with subjects such as behaviour, waste separation, mobility, energy conservation, and nature protection. These are all policy fields that can be supported by technical and legal instruments, but which in the end always rely on citizens’ support and change of attitude and behavior. Milieukontakt developed methodologies to inspire citizens to shape their own ‘Green Agenda’ and not only to be involved in policy making, but also to be proactive.
- Solving environmental problems
Everything it is all about developing a sustainable society. In order to reach sustainability, you have to solve existing environmental problems, and develop concepts, (cradle-to-cradle), methods, (recycling), and tools, (low energy equipment), to prevent new problems. If you build capacities and involve citizens without working towards these goals, you miss the point.
Milieukontakt cannot achieve its mission by itself. We are part of formal and informal networks of people and organisations working towards the fulfillment of our mission. The ability to cooperate with grass roots organisations in the communities and with international donors, government and business, is one of the strengths of Milieukontakt.
We forge strategic alliances & partnerships with civil society organisations, authorities, business and international institutions active for the sustainable societies or other issues connected to this theme like gender, health and education.
We develop, use and facilitate methods of participation, information sharing, analysis, and action among stakeholders and connect this approach to practical, cost effective and sustainable solutions for environmental challenges.
We cooperate with (social) scientists and research institutions to research, analyse and further develop the Milieukontakt approach and working methods.
We will implement in our daily work our code of conduct with rules for behaviour to counter corruption in projects and partnerships.
- Democratization and EU accession
Acknowledged importance of civil society
EU wants citizens to support the accession process and sees NGOs as a natural partner. Milieukontakt has proven to be a reliable partner of international institutions without losing its credibility and connection with the grass roots organisations and local governments. Since Milieukontakt is able to work both with ministers and citizens MiA can play a role in the growing complexity of decision making in the world today. Milieukontakt has more than 17 years’ experience in capacity building of civil society organisations.
Milieukontakt will continue to support civil society in organisation- and network development, fund raising capacities and participation in decision making processes through training, facilitation and support programmes.
- Education and sustainable development
Sustainable Development Goals
Since 2015 the international community agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 aspirational goals aimed at “transforming our world” by 2030. Sustainable development is to reconcile our human activity with the regeneration boundaries of our planet. Every economic system is part of a social context and an ecosystem, and both have limits. Currently, Albania is far from achieving sustainability and many key social and environmental indicators have already crossed red lines.
Education is one of the central pillars to achieve a sustainable social transformation. It is a platform that allows for a cross-generational dialogue to answer current and future questions. We believe that transformative learning can be achieved through critical (self-) reflection, which will lead to a change in the way we think and broaden our perspectives. Everybody should be encouraged and enabled to come up with creative and sustainable ideas and concepts which can then be developed and implemented.
Milieukontakt offers a wide range of expertise and educational material for schools, advanced training for adults and extracurricular education on a national level based on Adult Learning Cycle (Kolb Cycle).
- Climate change and Energy
Climate change is one of the dominant themes on the international agenda, both in terms of prevention of CO2 emission and adaptation to the consequences. The Copenhagen summit on climate change brought together 115 Heads of State and Government and more than 40,000 people applying for accreditation. Beside huge media attention, there was an enormous participation from CSOs from over the world. This multiplicity of actors on the one hand shows more participation in the decision making process but makes it much more complicated on the other hand. Although some may say there is no alternative to the top level, the solution may come from bottom up, a global movement including citizens’ action, local government measures and business innovations.
Milieukontakt can also play a role in stimulating the bottom up and local approach to greening the economy and fighting climate change in terms of CO2 emissions and need for adaptation measures. Milieukontakt can mobilize knowledge/expertise in support of NGOs and local communities. In regard to energy sector MiA supports any initiative on the use of alternative green energies, energy efficiency (reduce heat/losses ratio in buildings by achieving a thermal conformation, reducing energy bills), and more importantly protecting the environment by reducing CO2 emissions.
- Policies and Strategies
Growing cities graying communities
Cities keep on growing and have millions of inhabitants with severe implications for the environment. ” Among the major challenges are the mundane features of daily living: clean water and air, sanitary waste facilities, the cost of food, and the availability of shelter and transportation. This development also has great consequences for rural communities. Young people leave these communities and the elderly are left behind.
Milieukontakt wants to play a role in this development for the communities through its Green Agenda programme and for the people in the cities through supporting civil society organisations that work on Sustainable Cities.
- Environment and health
Growing environmental awareness and industrialization
Throughout the world environmental awareness is growing because of more education, agenda setting and disasters. Many citizens are aware of impact of pollution from industry and urbanization into water, air and waste. MiA aims to raise people’s awareness that keeping the environment clean is the right action if we want a healthy life. The best way to prevent soil and water pollution is through integrated waste management, basin river management and best agricultural practices in land use.
Many other consumers are aware of the origin of products and food, and support for protection of animals is growing. Despite efforts to develop new ecological ways to strengthen resistance to diseases the dependency on chemicals seems to be growing. Milieukontakt sees this growing dependency on chemicals as one of the main ‘ hidden’ environmental problems of today.
- Good Governance
Shifting powers, different systems
The face of democracy is changing. Milieukontakt experiences the need for more participative decision making, going even further than what was described in the Arhus Convention. In our Green Agenda programs citizens take the initiative and develop a local community strategy together with local stakeholders from civil society, business and authorities and bring it to the local Council to be adopted. The Convention gives citizens the right to information on environmental issues, the right to participate in policy and decision-making concerning the environment and the right to appeal to the courts if policy decisions are not in line with the law. Aarhus is a milestone in participation of citizens in decision-making on environmental matters. Over the years, Milieukontakt has been very active in supporting the implementation of the Convention. To be effective, civil society organizations have to have opportunities to operate in a society that allows for participation. In our own policy we believe that Aarhus is good, but citizens can go further in drafting and implementing environmental policy, certainly on the local level. In Green Agenda we speak of citizens’ initiative, which is one step further than participation. Our vision is that democracy can be much more than representation; it is the citizens who shape the future of their own community. In other words, we promote the transition from representative democracy to participative society.