Going towards Rio +20: How can we reach sustainable development and green economy in Montenegro?

“Favour those who care for and work to promote sustainable development, and then others will see the direct benefit from it and will understand better thecore of the concept; Educate citizens more, organize public debates, panels, etc.; Tourism and agriculture are not enough for development of Montenegro. There is no real progress with only hiking, biking and organic agriculture; How does Montenegro deal with the past of energy intensive industries?” – These are just some of the comments, questions and suggestions that came out from the live tweet conversation at #RioMe.

A two-day national conference on: “How to reach sustainable development and ‘green’ economy in Montenegro?“, held in Kolašin, Montenegro on 24-25 April 2012 assembled great number of national experts, but also it was the first of this kind of conference that provided an opportunity for citizens to participate through twitter.

A wide range of representatives discussed two questions during the meeting: what sustainable development means for a country that is heavily reliant on foreign direct investment and energy-intensive industries and subsequently Montenegro’s platform at the Rio+ conference.

“More than two decades ago Montenegro declared itself to be an ecological state without changing its appearance or behaviour accordingly,” said Branko Lukovac of the NGO the Greens of Montenegro.  Is there an alternative road of accelerated growth that would not deplete natural resources?” Igor Lukšić, Prime Minister of Montenegro argued that green economy is the means for implementation of sustainable development and that the major sectors for ‘intensive employment growth in Montenegro are tourism, energy and agriculture’. “Therefore, our attention is directed towards preservation of our precious natural resources and promotion of their efficient use. This is how we will stimulate employment. This is our long-term approach to challenges posed by climate change.”

Rastislav Vrbensky, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro pointed out that the post-Rio opportunities will come in a form of rewards and incentives for those countries that are early adopters of the green and sustainable growth. Mr. Vrbensky highlighted UNDP’s role, in this regard: “We can help citizens or struggling businesses to cope with falling incomes and demand by reducing their energy and water bills through efficiency measures, and support domestic businesses in a range of sectors, and we can help the Government to diversify revenue base, for example through investments in family owned and other small business, and mitigate the price shocks of oil and gas through exploration of clean energy sources.”

“The notion of sustainable development cannot be defined once forever. On the contrary, in my opinion, every generation will have to define sustainable development in its own terms relevant for that point in time,” said Predrag Sekulić, Minister of Tourism and Sustainable Development. He emphasized that Montenegro is lucky to be so rich in natural beauties, despite its relatively small size: “Now, the only question is how we can use our natural beauties to steer our future sustainable development”.

UNDP Country Office in Montenegro and the National Council for Sustainable Development will analyze the suggestions, comments and questions that the twitter discussion generated.  Some offer an opportunity for a concrete follow up (e.g. design of a crowd-sourced web-based application that will allow citizens to report illegal waste dumps in Montenegro), while others require continued discussion on making sustainable development relevant for average citizen in Montenegro.

Conclusions of the Conference will contribute to Montenegro’s preparations for the Third world summit, as well as to the upcoming revision of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development scheduled for the end of this year.

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Full opening remarks of UN Resident Representative/UN Resident Coordinator to Montenegro Mr. Rastislav Vrbensky