What can help Belarusian cities to expose themselves among foreign colleagues? Marina Borisova, Deputy Director of Interakcia Foundation and Expert in Communication and Project development prepared a kit of international cooperation opportunities for Belarusian cities.
GLOBAL ACTIONS AND EVENTS
The entire planet turns the light off for an hour every year. That’s how citizens, local authorities and business take part in global movement called “Earth hour”. It has been drawing attention to consequences of climate change for 11 years. This year 17 Belarusian cities joined “Earth hour”.
Belarus actively participates in 2 other international events: European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) and European Mobility Week. EUSEW is a series of events all over the Europe which promote ideas of transferring to clean energy sources among city residents, local authorities and business. 19 Belarusian cities took part in European Sustainable Energy Week with the support of Interakcia Foundation. Most of them participated for the first time, and Polack fot the sixth time.
Summer architectual school "Transformator" during Energy Days - 2017 in Polack
Only 3 Belarusian cities joined European Mobility Week (EMW) in 2015. Two years after there were 30 cities. EMW promotes ideas of sustainable urban mobility, the most popular event is “car-free day”. European Mobility Week began to held in Polack within the framework of EU-funded project “From Energy Efficiency to Urban Mobility”. Project finished last year, but city continue to held this event and now do this by itself.
Why to participate? First of all, in order to present yourself at the international level. As usual, coordinators of such events publish reports. For example, European Mobility Week in Polack was marked in final report of the initiative among hundreds of cities. Secondly, you get additional opportunities for promotion. For example, European Sustainable Energy Week gives possibility to annoucnce events on its official sites and use its visual elements: templates, visibility materials, hashtags.
What do cities need to do to join such events? Frequently, fill in the application form on event’s website or get in touch with coordinators in Belarus.
By participating in international initiatives cities can not only present their achievements but also adopt best practices from local and European colleagues.
There are already 41 Belarusian cities committed themselves to reduce CO2 emmissions by 30% by 2030. They participate in European initiative“Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy”. Covenant's signatories develop and adopt their Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs). In the Eastern Partnership countries initiative has been implemented also within the framework of EU-funded project “Covenant of Mayors - East”. There are 2 supporting structures of the Covenant of Mayors in Belarus - Interakcia Foundation and International Public Organization “Ecopartnership”
Ivan Shchadranok, Director in Interakcia Foundation and National Expert in Belarus, Covenant of Mayors - East
As Covenant's supporting structure in Belarus, we consult sigantory cities and help them to draw up SECAPs. Initiative is very populat among Belarusian cities. 20 participants joined Covenant of Mayors in 2017 and now there are 41 signatories in total. 12 of them are implementing their SECAPs and new participants are developing them.
Representatives of Covenant's signatory in Belarus during solemn ceremony of accession
For successful participatns of the Covenant of Mayors EU-funded programme “Covenant of Mayors - Demonstration Projects” works. Thus, with the financial support of the European Union smart water accounting system will be implemented in Chavusy, public lighting will be modernized in Polack and Braslau is going to become the first climate neutral municipality in Belarus. New projects will start soon in Biaroza and Ašmiany. Public lighting will be modernized in Biaroza as well as kindergarten insulated in Ašmiany.
According to similar principle EU initiative “Mayors for Economic Growth” works. It helps local authorities to develop business environment and attract investment. With the help of the European Union cities develop and implement their Local Economic Development Plans.
CIVITAS network is aimed at fostering clean, safe and sustainable transport. It is made up from local authorities, public organizations, experts in the sphere of transport, bicycle activists from 250 cities all over the Europe. CIVITAS members exchange experience and best practices in sustainable urban mobility during its annual conferences. At this moment there are only 2 Belarusian members in CIVITAS: Polack and Navapolack.
First bicycle lane in Polack
What cities should do to join such initiatives? As a rule, sign an accession paper and commit yourself to develop some strategic document. And what are main advantages of participation? Usually, training opportunities (workshops, webinars, knowledge-sharing events), access to grant programmes tailored for members of these networks.
By joining professional associations cities can receive more individual approach to themselves.
LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International) helps to improve public lighting. Lyon (France) is one of the founders of this organization. This city is known for large-scale Festival of Light, which gathers thousands of people all over the world every year. LUCI members receive access to instruments and best practices from international colleagues, free entrance to all association’s events. In addition, LUCI is an opportunity to present yourself and your experience at the international level.
Festival of lights in Lyon - 2017
ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability - unites more than 1 700 cities and regions from 124 countries. ICLEI’s participants are local authorities, who adhere to the principles of sustainable development. This organization provides opportunities to knowledge-sharing, helps to find partners and establish contacts with business and financial institutions.
Generally, city needs to submit an application and pay fee to become the member of organization. As a rule, fee’s amount is about 1 000 EUR per year or depends on the size of the city. Also there could be an opportunity to discuss the amount of fee individually. At the present time there is no interest to international associations from Belaruisan cities.
WHICH DIFFICULTIES APPEAR AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM
The most popular barriers are language handicap, lack of awareness and motivation as well as money to pay fees. Solve some of these problems cities can in cooperation with NGOs and business.
As a rule, NGOs are more awared in opportunities for international cooperation. Usually they publish info about them on their websites and communities in social networks - check the updates. Also local authorities and NGOs can draft and realize joint, within their frameworks. Cooperation between Polack city and Interakcia Foundation (together we raised more than 2 mln EUR of grant investments) of Braslau city and Center for Environmental Solutions are good examples.
Except projects, NGOs can help with drafting applications for participation in global actions and events. For example Covenant of Mayors’ supporting structures in Belarus - Interakcia Foundation and IPO «Ecopartnership» help Belarusian cities which are going to conduct Energy Days to draw up applications for participation in European Sustainable Energy Week in English.
How business can help cities? There are no explicit mechanisms of interaction. For example, they can agree in a such way: business helps city to pay fees for participation in professional associations and receives access to training opportunities and knowledge-sharing events in return. Taking into account that professional associations have clear specialization, it could be a good chance for business to promote their products or services.
In fact, Belarusian cities have a lot of opportunities to present themselves at the international level. Here we have listed only a few. By entering the international arena cities can not only exchange their experience and replicate best practices, but also improve image of Belarus.