From “Big Rio” to “My Rio” – Making the sustainable development dialogue relevant for ordinary citizens in Montenegro

On April 24-25, the National Council for Sustainable Development in Montenegro and UNDP will organize a 2-day meeting on sustainable development in Kolasin (tip for the would-be tourist: around this northern city there are a number of hidden gems worth exploring).

The event is Montenegro’s contribution to a global dialogue on sustainability and an opportunity for the country to consolidate the platform it will present at the global Sustainable Development Conference, the Rio+ meeting in June.

There are several dominant themes of the meeting:

–  How does Montenegro deal with the legacies of its economic past- energy intensive industries and heavy reliance on foreign direct investment- in a resource-constrained world?

– Can green economy deliver on a promise of social equity, in addition to competitiveness and low emissions?

– How can tourism and agriculture reduce regional economic imbalances?

– Where are the most immediate opportunities for renewable energy and energy efficiency in Montenegro?

Opening up the dialogue

We will hear a lot of globally popular phrases during the meeting- smart growth, green growth, de-carbonized economy.   But chances are that most of the public doesn’t tend to use these terms in their daily lives. They tend to talk about their kids and the education they are getting.  They worry whether gas prices will continue rising and with them the prices of bread and milk.  They use modern technology to collect food and clothes for those who were most hit by the snow storms.  They mule over lost jobs, high energy bills and low monthly retirement checks.  They worry whether a dry summer season will hurt their produce, and how will they recover from the snow storm that destroyed their green houses.

How can we echo these concerns and ideas in our event? We know from experience in our projects that public participation is a key to success, whether these concern energy efficiency and cultural buildings in Beautiful Cetinje, or adventure tourism in Mojkovac.  So how do we extend the discussion in Kolasin to the wider public?

We like to think that social media have some potential here, since they favor immediacy, two-way communication and, perhaps most importantly, if used effectively, they provide a personal and informal voice to what are often jargon-filled policy debates. Montenegro is the first Tweeter Government in the region, so we thought: why not have a live tweeting session from the event and provide opportunity to all interested to get involved? Can we use social media to turn the “big Rio” discussions into something that resonates with the concerns of ordinary citizens? We are well aware that this is a medium that has still a relatively small penetration in Montenegro – at the same time, those early adopters are quite passionate, so why not experimenting with opening up this channel (after all, it comes for free ).

Here’s how to get involved

Are you interested in sustainable development? Do you care about the future of Montenegro? Are you worried about job security? Are you working on an idea at the moment that leaders at the event should know about?

Here’s an opportunity to have a say and get the attention of decision makers in Montenegro. Mark the date: Apr 24-25 and the hashtag #RioMe. Post your question or comment in advance or during the meeting and we will make sure it is reflected at the event. On our side, we will do our best to capture the key takes from the speeches and the debates. And if you miss anything, we will summarize your questions and comments, the discussion and share it at our website after the event. Let the dialogue begin!

Blog written by Milica Begovic Radojevic, PhD

Economy and Environment Cluster Leader

UNDP Montenegro