The topic area offers assistance in improving environmental planning and integrating it in all sectors; improving environmental management; and providing pilot small-scale priority environmental investments. By strengthening local institutions; addressing environmental degradation; reducing the negative effects of shifts in political structures; and enhancing the speed of institutional reform, topic area activities are aimed at building the capacities of local institutions in South Eastern Europe (SEE) in the fields of sustainability planning and management. This is in line with the requirements for decentralisation and regionalisation stipulated in the EU approximation process for SEE countries.
The topic area’s goals are to:
- continue assisting local communities to draft local environmental action plans (LEAPs), with a focus on communities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (as defined under UNSCR 1244), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia;
- support the implementation of local small-scale environmental investment projects identified in local planning documents;
- further explore opportunities to develop topic-specific local planning methodologies and tools in order to respond to the growing need of local communities to address sustainable development challenges (including climate change responses and the sustainable use of natural resources);
- provide training on local sustainable development for representatives of national and local administrations from SEE and new EU member states; and
- provide support to communities and schools to improve sustainable development practices and environmental governance in selected communities in the SEE region.
The topic area implements activities in the following areas:
Local environmental action plans
The development of LEAPs and the facilitation of small-scale pilot environmental investments in local communities form the core of the topic area’s work. The LEAP is a brand product offered by the REC to local communities as a sustainability planning tool. It is developed through an open and participatory process involving all stakeholders in a given community, with the support of local authorities. Several country-specific LEAP methodologies have evolved in the last 12 years, centered on action planning and transparency and focusing on identifying alternative development scenarios for local communities. The topic area’s experience in drafting and implementing LEAPs provides a knowledge base for developing other local tools for sustainability: local biodiversity action plans (LBAPs); local sustainability action plans (LSAPs); and local sustainable school concepts.
Building capacities of local stakeholders
Activities in this field aim to promote the integration of sustainable development principles in local/national plans and policies; strengthen the role of local communities in developing national environmental and other policies; improve practices for sustainable development; contribute to the implementation of international and EU sustainable development policies and legislation; and support cooperation between local communities and the business sector in order to promote the concept of sustainable investments.