Synergies for Energy Awareness Change
South East Europe stands at a crossroad in terms of sustainable development, with enormous natural and human potential, but operations in the fields of energy production, consumption and efficiency in most cases lack efficiency. Already regional energy trading and large energy development projects have soaked up resources, expertise and political leadership, which might be better used to increase the efficiency of existing infrastructure, reduce the cost for citizens in terms of basic human energy needs, and do less damage to the environment. The economic solutions which are being offered are often large, financially risky projects, which are at best hugely expensive and have already been subject to scrutiny regarding damage not just to state budgets - but also damage to the environment and social fabric. All this is grossly impacting the potential for the region’s sustainability as indicated in their recent surveys by both NEF (http://neweconomics.org/projects/happy-planet-index) and the Global Footprint Network
(http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/), not to mention the looming challenges of climate change.
On the other side, probably the most problematic part of CSO activism in South East Europe is networking and cooperation on the issues of common concerns such as energy. It is sometimes stated “networks... don't work”, because a) CSO see each other as competitors to donor resources and they hesitate to cooperate, b) that donors have tended to focus on resourcing the networks as processes rather than supporting the delivery of products.
SEA Change Network (Synergy for Energy Awareness Change) is an alliance of media, NGOs and universities in the region, committed to discuss key energy issues, examine patterns, identify issues for common action, develop and engage in joint advocacy. The network aims at promoting regional perspectives and cross-border cooperation based on common interests and needs. One of the key findings of the initial network meetings was that while the CSOs all faced similar patterns of development challenges in their countries – often with the same network of 'actors' - their expertise were different but complimentary (technical expert, watch dog, environment protector, analyst, citizens participation) and that this complementarity would strengthen a regional advocacy campaign. Specifically one of the joint actions agreed upon was the regional energy advocacy campaign which would strengthen cross border cooperation & dialogue through a network based initiative aimed at advocating for shared objectives using independent analysis to creating culture of accountability amongst decision makers and funders regarding the sustainability of energy projects and policies.
Fortunately, the countries of SEE countries are uniquely positioned to learn from each other (e.g. Croatia is candidate country, Serbia potential candidate and Kosovo and Albania on EU path). Further the, former socialist countries, now members of EU, have substantial knowledge of transition and positive lessons of the shift from communist to the market oriented economies, which they could offer to their counterparts. In order to leverage the experience of new and 'old” EU member states, SEE Change Net has developed links with several prominent European Sustainable Development Institutions, including The Polish Sustainable Development Institute (Warsaw), The Institute for Environmental Systems Management (Amsterdam), The New Economic Foundation (London) and the Sustainable European Research Institute (Vienna) who will assist the network in transfer of knowledge.
The goal of the initiative is a first-step for the SEA Change network to contribute to improved awareness regarding sustainability of development within the energy sector in South East Europe, through regional cooperation amongst civil society actors.
Objective 1: network of various NGO's in the region with a variety of skills and knowledge related to energy to develop a base line on patterns of energy production, consumption and savings/efficiency in the context of EU accession and Sustainability
Objective 2: using the strengths and capacities of the network to develop a synergistic advocacy campaign to highlight energy challenges in the region.