Sviatohirsk, 20-21 November 2019 - The first “Government-Business-Society” Environmental Partnership Forum, organized within the framework of the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme in Ukraine, has been held in Donetsk Oblast, with financial support from the governments of Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
Eastern Ukraine faces a number of serious environmental challenges: Pollution from nearly two centuries of heavy industry, mainly coal mining and the steel industry, has scarred parts of the landscape and continues to pollute the region’s air and water. Intensive agriculture in both Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts add further to soil and water contamination. Added to that, the armed conflict in the region since 2014 has damaged the region’s environment and driven away staff protecting nature reserves. According to an assessment carried out by UN Environment’s Science-Policy Platform on Environment and Security, the conflict has affected, damaged, or destroyed ecosystems within an area of at least 530,000 hectares, including 18 nature reserves covering an area of 80,000 hectares. Furthermore, 150,000 hectares of forests have been impacted, with 12,500 forest fires blazing through the military operations zone and adjacent areas.
The forum attracted over one hundred representatives of local government bodies in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, representatives of the Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection of Ukraine, the Ministry of Communities and Territories of Ukraine, and Donetsk and Luhansk oblast state administrations, as well as the heads of departments of ecological and natural resources of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and representatives from industry and the energy sector, business, NGOs and the media.
The grand opening of the forum was attended by former Acting Ecology and Natural Resources Minister of Ukraine Serhiy Kurykin, Manager of the UN Peacebuilding and Recovery Programme Victor Munteanu, Director of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of Luhansk Oblast State Administration Oleh Tikhonov and Rector of the State Ecological Academy of Postgraduate Education and Management, fellow of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine Oleksandr Bondar.
Attendees at the forum heard about measures to assess, limit and repair the environmental damage done, and discussed means to get all sides involved in preventing further problems as the area’s business, industry and economy recovers.
“I’d like to point out that our programme has done a great deal of work at the community level, where we have supported the creation of about 20 environmental cooperation initiatives between local authorities, small, medium and large businesses and community residents, including representatives of civil society,” Victor Munteanu, the manager of UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, told the forum. “And today at this forum we want to hear new ideas, criticisms and suggestions for their incorporation into our future activities for the next three years. That is the logic of holding this forum."
"And it’s worth making mention of another component that didn’t make into the name of the forum, which lists three parts of the ecological formula – the research environment, which we use systematically in all of our environmental initiatives," Munteanu said.
The main topics for discussion at the forum were the establishment of dialogue between the local authorities and the largest industrial enterprises of the region, analysing the environmental component of social responsibility and its impact on the development of enterprises in the regions, increasing environmental social responsibility and preventing a negative impact on the economic and environmental development of the regions, the implementation of environmental strategies, and sharing experience and suggestions for ways to improve the environment.
"From a scientist's point of view, I see the first steps of cooperation with the UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme as being to cooperate with local governments, civil society organizations, and businesses in risk assessment, especially in emergency situations, in the context of the ongoing conflict,” said State Ecological Academy of Postgraduate Education and Management Rector Bondar.
“This is important work that we fully support, in order to minimize the threats that are now looming over the east of Ukraine,” he said.
Maksym Kytsiuk, Communications Associate, UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, email@example.com, +380 63 576 1839
The UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme is being implemented by four UN agencies: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (UN Women), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The programme is supported by 11 international partners: the European Union, the European Investment Bank, and the governments of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan.