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Belarus launches "Green Schools" Project


New environmental project "Civic Engagement in Environmental Monitoring and Improving Environmental Management at the Local Level" ("Green Schools" Project) has been launched in Belarus. The opening seminar of the project is taking place in Minsk on 18 July, BelTA has learned.

A four-year project of the international technical aid is financed by the European Union and is implemented by the United Nations Development Program in partnership with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry. Its budget is estimated at €3.5 million.

"The project will run in all the oblasts of the country and the city of Minsk. The project is designed to scale up the monitoring of environmental risks, in particular, in the field of ambient air quality, through building up the capacity of the network of "green schools". The "Green Schools" Project will be adapted for implementation at kindergartens (one pilot kindergarten has been selected) and institutions for children with disabilities. Today we are having a seminar that will give a start to a whole series of events. A study guide on civic engagement in environmental monitoring will be elaborated and published, a large-scale educational campaign will be launched, and two environmental forums will be held.

Seven environmental monitoring clubs will be established on the basis of "green schools". They will bring together volunteers, environmental CSOs, and community environmentalists. The educational function of "green schools" will be enhanced (teaching staff will be trained; existing programs for secondary schools will be upgraded and new programs will be developed). 11 resources centers for "green schools" will be established and equipped with environmental monitoring instruments. The project also provides for ensuring cooperation between "green schools" and local government authorized to perform environmental monitoring regarding data collection and management.

People with disabilities will also be involved in environmental monitoring. The National Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disabilities will become a pilot facility for testing the Green Schools approach in such type of educational institutions. Support will be provided to Aarhus Centers operating in Belarus.

A contest of environmental initiatives will be held to promote rational use of natural resources, ecotourism, biodiversity conservation, waste management, ambient air quality improvement. The contest will be held from 1 August to 30 September 2018. The top 10-20 initiatives will receive financial support (the budget of the initiatives ranges from €50 to €100,000).

"Our meeting is part of the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals that are integrated into Belarus' economy objectives. It is necessary to educate the public how to maintain a sensible dialogue with economic operators with a view to avoiding a conflict of interests, to engage civil society in environmental decision-making and to ramp up efforts at the regional level to promote green economy," Belarus' First Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection Iya Malkina said at the opening ceremony of the seminar. She expressed hope that the contest of initiatives will give an opportunity to the civil society to put forward their initiatives and will build capacity in promoting sustainable development of green economy.

Elena Rakova, Project Coordinator of the Delegation of the European Union in Belarus, emphasized the large scale of the "Green Schools" Project and the importance of environmental education for the youth. The successful partnership between the UNDP, the EU and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry was welcomed by Zachary Taylor, Deputy Resident Representative at the UNDP in Belarus. "No matter how many efforts are invested by governments, intergovernmental and international organizations into combating negative environmental impacts, success is impossible without public involvement. They have already been tested in countries of Europe and Asia. They help avoid conflicts between the participants and create new jobs. When the public is involved in discussions before investments are made, this helps enhance sustainability and quality of the newly created green economy. It is encouraging that such an approach is prioritized by Belarus," Zachary Taylor said.