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Strong Civil Society Organizations for Improving the State of Nature in Serbia

With stronger financial support, coordination of state and local institutions with civil society organizations, and support for their work, the development opportunities of nature in Serbia are significant.

At yesterday's WWF Forum of Environmental Policies "Development Opportunities of Nature in Serbia," representatives from over 100 local, provincial and national institutions, as well as international and domestic organizations, agreed that more investment is needed in nature conservation, climate, and water in Serbia if we want them to be healthy, functional, and economically viable systems.

The State Secretary of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Sara Pavkov, opened the panel, emphasizing that funds for ecology in this year's budget have doubled and that the Ministry will continue to support good environmental policies. She also said, "Our country has shown so far that the development opportunities of nature in Serbia do not have to conflict with the prosperity of society."

Support for empowering local authorities and organizations also came from representatives of the European Union Delegation, Antoan Avonjon, who referred to the recently adopted Nature Restoration Law in the European Parliament, as positive international policy will also have a favorable impact on nature protection in Serbia. He emphasized that supporting grantees isn’t just transferring money but also raising their capacities trough education and constant close cooperation.

Protected areas in Serbia face inconsistent jurisdictions, lack of financial resources, and diverse management. Some areas, such as the Tara National Park, are effectively managed, but another emerging problem is economic interest, namely the needs of those who want to do business or settle in these areas. The trend of large migrations to protected areas and the construction of weekend houses has been observed after the pandemic, and although legal in many cases, such structures cannot be supported by appropriate infrastructure and disrupt the harmony of the local population. Economic expansion is a major challenge for numerous other protected areas. At the same time, other managers of protected areas are not familiar with the scope of their authority, leading to numerous disagreements between local government and civil society organizations.

"All of the above are conclusions from the panel Smart and Sustainable Management of Protected Areas - Challenges and Opportunities within the Forum. I would emphasize that civil society organizations are precisely the ones informed in legal terms and waiting with ready-made solutions for improvement," said Vanja Jakšić from WWF Adria.

The unanimous opinion of the panelists on Adapting to Climate Change at the Local Level is that concrete steps must be taken urgently to at least mitigate it, and positive examples include the City of Sombor and the recently completed document with recommendations aimed at the City of Vranje. Young people are also aware of the climate mega-crisis, but not all are ready to give up the well-being they enjoy and thus contribute to its mitigation. Considering that the measures should yield results in the next 50 years and involve a large number of sectors, applying examples of good practice and development policies at the national level is also of great importance.
Similar to the case of protected areas, there are two directions of action by local authorities when it comes to Effective Water Management and Recommendations for Improvement, which was the third topic of the Forum. If they recognize their potential for improvement in water management, their actions cannot be realized due to a lack of finances. It often happens that there is no solution for improvement, which consequently affects not only the survival of the plant and animal world dependent on healthy water but also humans. According to Ljubiša Mijačić from WWF Adria, "The economy of continuous growth is a very thirsty economy. It requires staggering amounts of water for every aspect of growth." In that direction, regional solutions need to be considered to prevent huge water losses measured in millions of cubic meters.

The panelists at this Forum were representatives of the Tara National Park, the Institute for Nature Conservation, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, the City of Sombor, the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, the Bird Protection and Observation Society, the Right to Water Association, Ekomar, Join, Our World Our Rules, as well as a representative of the Intesa Sanpaolo group.

The WWF Forum of Environmental Policies was organized at the premises of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia and was implemented within the project "Safe Nature and Climate," financially supported by the European Commission. The aim of this project is to strengthen the capacities of civil society organizations in Serbia dealing with environmental protection and climate change.
Panel zasticena podrucja

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