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Newsletter #1

Documentation of the Eco-Region Kick-off Conference

Berlin, Germany, 1-3 April 2009

1. Welcome and introduction 

The three-day Kick-off Conference was officially opened by the Lead Partner of the Eco-Region project with a welcome speech of Mrs. Jenny Behrendt, representing the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). Mr. André Schnuhr, representing the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), which is charged with the overall project management, gave an overview of the project’s administrative and contractual aspects. Mrs. Mia Crawford from the Baltic 21 Secretariat presented the multi-stakeholder network of Baltic 21. She outlined the importance of the Eco-Region project in supporting the Baltic 21 organisation and its mission to contribute to advancing the sustainable development of the Baltic Sea region. Designed in order to demonstrate sustainability in practice, the Eco-Region project is recognized as one of the Baltic 21 Lighthouse projects.
It was stressed that, right after the Kick-off Conference, Mrs. Dörte Ratzmann would take the place of Mrs. Jenny Behrendt and thus be the responsible person for the project at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

2. The Eco-Region project

A detailed overview of the Eco-Region project was presented by Mrs. Angela Schultz-Zehden from sustainable-projects (s.Pro GmbH), who was responsible for the preparation of the project application. She outlined the main issues to be addressed within the project, activities to be implemented, as well as outputs to be delivered. Special attention was given to Work Package 2 (promotion and dissemination) and Work Package 4 (Good Practice Database) as the s.Pro GmbH will act as the external coordination office for these project aspects.

2.1. Overview of the Eco-Region project

The overall aim of Eco-Region is to develop the Baltic Sea Region into the world’s first Eco-Region 
where economical growth goes hand in hand with environmental integrity and social justice.
Thus “eco” stands for both “economy” and “ecology” and the social dimension is strongly integrated as well.

Eco-Region has been designed as to address these needs:

  • good practices on SD in the BSR will be collected, documented and evaluated,
  • the Baltic 21 programmes and actions will be updated,
  • regions will be supported with the realization of the cyclical SD management model and with realization and implementation of selected SD measures and actions.

To achieve this, the project addresses some of the most relevant obstacles to sustainable development in the BSR:

  • the lack of integration of tools and expertise developed within sectoral platforms and projects
  • the need to further promote and possibly adapt Aalborg Commitment processes in the BSR regions and
  • the state of Baltic 21 Action Programme and Sectoral Action Plans, which do not fully reflect new developments.

At the end of the three years implementation phase of the project, the following outputs will be delivered:

… on regional level  

  • regional SD Programmes agreed & approved - in 9 model regions
  • at least one realized action in each model region - linked to regional programme with help of Baltic 21 good practice
  • 5-step capacity building programme on cyclical SD management systems
  • realised inter-regional experience exchange & development of good practice 
… on policy level

  • Adapted Baltic 21 Action Plan:
  • Baltic 21 good practices to all interested stakeholders for free
  • creation of linkages across sectors, between international and regional levels
  • Baltic 21 “Transport” & “Energy” themes and other sectors revitalised
… on sectoral level
  • Good practice collection & evaluation for 8 sectors - Forest, Tourism, Industry, Agriculture, Transport, Energy, Education, Spatial Planning
  • Online database with good practices (approx. 200)
  • Model Region Assistance
  • Sector contact points established
  • Sector Experiences aligned with regional Aalborg Themes
  • Contributions to EcoRegion Newsletters & Periodicals

Project organization 

2.2. Introduction to WP 2: promotion and dissemination

The purpose and elements of the communication policy for the Eco-Region project were presented and discussed.

Even if tightly linked to the Baltic 21 Network, the Eco-Region project will implement own promotion and dissemination activities. The project will nevertheless benefit from the Baltic 21 network and its communication structures (esp. as a distribution channel).

Basic Communication tools will include

  • Project Website
  • Project Flyer
  • Beamer Animations / Power points
  • Project Activity Plan
  • Partner Newsletter
  • Conference Documentations
  • Thematic Periodicals
  • Recommendations …and optionally:
  • Posters / Roll-up displays
  • Fact Sheets o Promotional Items

Media work will consist of:

  • Direct mailings
  • Articles in other network newsletters
  • Local media stories

The main target groups were identified as follows: 

  • political decision-makers for communicating the results of WP6 (policy development)  
  • regional and local decision-makers and actors when communicating the results of WP4 (SD good practices) and WP5 (SD regional management)
  • real and potential Baltic 21 network partners,  
  • transnational organisations and networks outside the BSR
  • as cross-sectoral, inter-regional and regional-sectoral communication is at the core of Eco-Region, the project partners themselves will form an important target group as well. 
It was stressed that a coherent Eco-Region message should be developed and used as a key tool to transport the purpose of the Eco-Region project.
Finally, it was underlined that communication is a central task of each individual partner and that the central communication management can only assist in providing the appropriate tools.

2.3. Introduction to WP 4: Good Practice Collection

The Good Practice database will be one of the core visible outputs of the Eco-Region project and include a minimum of 25 Good Practices to be collected by each of the responsible eight project partners each representing one of the Baltic 21 sectors.

The main purposes of the database are:

  • Transfer of Good Practices
  • Use “Good Practice” Collection as a tool to revitalise the Baltic 21 Sectors
  • Showcase for Baltic 21 / BSR Branding
  • Identification of “Bad Practice” and possible gaps
Contents and structure of the planned database were further discussed and agreed by sector representatives in the related working group (see 4.1. Working Group of Sectors –Results).

2.4. WP 2 and WP 4 Next Steps :

Project Communication Plan:
The Communication Plan needs to be submitted together with the 1st Progress Report by end July 09 (i.e. before the next Lahti meeting!). s.Pro will collect the needed partner input in the coming weeks, prepare the Communication Plan and submit it for decision to the project steering group.
Thematic periodicals:
s.Pro will present a concept for thematic periodicals for subsequent discussion at the Lathi Conference (September 2009); ideally a, decision on responsibilities and contents will be taken at this conference – so that a first publication might be possible by early 2010.
Good Practice Database (part of project website):
s.Pro will test a proposal on the database structure on the basis of selected examples in cooperation with some project partners. The structure is expected to be confirmed by 15th June 2009. The database for use of partners will subsequently be opened by August 09 latest; the final database (with all collected good practices) shall be opened to the public access by April 2010.

3. Introduction into Integrated Cyclical Sustainability Management

Holger Robrecht, Director for Sustainability Management at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability presented the organisation’s mission, as well as related activities within the Eco-Region project. ICLEI has been selected as the responsible external coordination office to assist in activities in WP5.
ICLEI’s mission is to build and serve as an active and committed movement of local governments to achieve tangible improvements in worldwide sustainability. It supports the implementation of Local Agenda 21 and is a key actor in establishing and promoting the “Aalborg Process on Local Sustainability” by means of the Aalborg Charter and the Aalborg Commitments.

The Aalborg Commitments (Aalborg +10 Conference, June 2004) support European local Governments in their implementation of the Aalborg Charter and set important policy guidelines for local sustainability. They are regarded as voluntary commitments and describe 10 fields of action (see figure) and 50 key activities and concrete actions for local sustainable development.
The 10 Aalborg Commitments
1. Governance
2. Local management towards sustainability
3. Natural common goods
4. Responsible consumption and lifestyle choices
5. Planning and design
6. Better mobility, less traffic
7. Local action for health
8. Vibrant and local sustainable economy
9. Social equity and justice
10. Local to global
In the following working session, regions and sectors defined and presented their priorities for action with a view to their linkage to the Aalborg Commitments.
A transcription of the partner input is attached as Annex II to the document.

Integrated cyclical sustainability management

Integrated sustainability management acts as a support-tool for implementing the Aalborg Commitments and was developed to help local governments to achieve better quality of life and improve competitiveness and resilience. It involves setting targets and allocating budgets for resources and common goods, monitoring and reviewing of progress and supporting international agreements for local sustainability.
Within the Eco-Region Project ICLEI will support regions with strengthening Local Agenda 21 processes via an integrated approach of Cyclical Sustainable Development management.

This will include the following activitities:

  • Sustainable Development structures and processes established & running in all Model Areas
  • Regional strategic Sustainable Development programmes (with Baseline Review, Targets, agreed Actions to reach targets)
  • Around 20 management plans for concrete sustainability measures & actions (e.g. Biosphere Reservation concepts, Regional Transport Plans, Climate Change Promotion Centre Business Plan)
  • Administrative capacities strengthened in Integrated Management Cycle through trainings
  • Monitoring & evaluation of sustainability targets & measures
The experience of the Lahti region in sustainability management was also highlighted: the region signed the Aalborg Commitments in October 2007 and is preparing it’s Baseline Review to be finalised in May 2009.
The municipality of Växjö was highlighted as a good example for the introduction of an environmental management system based on the “plan-do-check-act” cycle to steer and follow up the environmental work and targets in the municipality.The municipality pursues the vision of a “fossil fuel free Växjö, where use of energy does not impact the climate”.

As a result the following outputs will be developed:

  • raise capacities in the participating administrations in running integrated cyclical sustainable management systems
  • introduce and/or implement and strengthen an integrated cyclical management approach towards sustainable development
  • prepare and agree upon a Strategic regional SD programme with concrete measures & actions (linked also to investments)
  • facilitate exchange of experience between regions and knowledge transfer between Baltic 21 sectors and regions
  • identify and realise a set of measures to achieve the targets on sustainable development…
  • …on the basis of good practice examples from the BSR region and exchange of experience with other.