Is measuring sustainability in tourism possible?

This is the key question that the participants of the Conference on “Measuring Sustainability in Tourism: Opportunities and Limitations” on 2-3 April 2019 in Berlin, Germany tried to answer by delving on the possible criteria, scales, and indicators leading to the quantification of tourism’s sustainability. And the result was for me surprising.


Tourism stakeholders across Europe, ranging from tour operators to country tourism representatives, exchanged experiences and researches on assuring sustainability in tourism destinations. Sustainable development experts and tourism practitioners were also invited to speak on topics such as International Examples of Data Collection to Data Usage, Scales of Sustainability Data Collection, Usage of Indices for Destination Management and Certification Processes, and others. To my surprise, as perhaps the only Asian participant in the crowd with high expectation from his European counterparts, everyone in the conference realised that it is rather not easy to measure sustainability in tourism. Dr Anselm Mattes of the economics consultancy firm DIW ECON based in Berlin, Germany explicitly admitted that no country is far ahead from the others when it comes to quantifying sustainability in tourism. This is because the direction is not clear and no convincing approaches had been done so far. The challenges in data collection, management, and storage also add up to the complexities.


One would assume (perhaps the same as I did) that because Europeans are in some ways advanced when it comes to development and planning, they are also ahead in diagnosing problems and providing solutions. This is not true in the case of measuring tourism sustainability, as the conference has revealed. Rather than being disappointed for not taking away concrete measurement strategies, I was glad that the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the German Environment Agency together with the United Nations World Tourism Organization have this kind of platform where stakeholders from the European community discuss how to make tourism and its activities sustainable. Because if we want to achieve a goal, something has to start somewhere. And the conference is an excellent building block.


Participating in the conference was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn the European perspective of sustainable tourism. The tools I learned and will share with our tourism partners in the southern island region of Mindanao in the Philippines are already a handful. Thanks to CIPSEM for facilitating my participation in this conference while my EM42 course colleagues explored other fields of environmental management in Berlin. And thanks to Büro für Tourismus- und Erholungsplanung for the administrative assistance.



Author: Ireneo S. Piong, Jr. (Mindanao Development Authority – Area Management Office for Northeastern Mindanao, Philippines, EM42 participant)

Photos: BTE (Büro für Tourismus- und Erholungsplanung)

An excursion to the BMUB and 3rd German Future Earth Summit in Berlin

After a month of studies in Dresden at CIPSEM, we (EM41) had an opportunity to go to Berlin for a visit to the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and attending the 3rd German Future Earth Summit. As scheduled, we left Dresden in the early morning of February 7th heading to Berlin by train. As soon as we arrived, on the way to our first stop, we encountered an old piece of the Berlin Wall and the line that used to divide the city. We got to the Ministry of Environment. Ms. Königsberg received us and told us about the history of the house, Berlin and The Wall. She showed us maps and old photos from that time. We did a tour of the building, through the patios and the standing Wall. We proceeded to the conference room where we met with Mr. Contius, head of the division “United Nations, Agenda 2030, Cooperation with Developing and Newly Industrialized Countries” at the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Mr. Contius talked to us about Germany’s Multilateral Work for Sustainable Development and its relevance on the national level. He explained that the main goal of his division involves narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, and help businesses go green. That way, there will be a change of course in order to achieve as many SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as possible by 2030. Germany mainly focuses on 3 issues: energy, agriculture and traffic; through the “5 Ps”: people, planet, prosperity, partnership and peace. After having lunch at the Ministry, we went to the greywater recycling project station at Block 6. Mr. Nolde, manager of the project, explained the history and the overview of his project on how it operates. The facility is a decentralized recycling station, which according to Mr. Nolde is the best way for water treatment and reutilization in order to maximize energy efficiency. In the evening, Dr. Lindner gave us a quick tour around Brandenburger Tor and the Reichstag, on the way to a wonderful dinner at Hopfingerbräu im Palais.

On the following 2 days, we joined the 3rd German Future Earth Summit – From Knowledge to Action at the Umweltforum. This summit provides a platform for researchers, scholars, NGOs, practitioners to discuss and figure out the challenges, especially in science, regarding the agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development. This year, the focus of the Summit was on KANs or Knowledge-Action Networks, in order to build bridges between the scientific community and other stakeholders and decision makers.


During the summit, we were divided into different roundtable discussions and sessions according to our professional and academic expertise and interests. This helped us understand, discuss and share ideas among all attendees. It was a great opportunity for us, EM41 Fellows, to meet many scholars and researchers, and build networks with them for future cooperation.


Overall, the Berlin Excursion gave us a great opportunity to understand Germany’s Environmental Policy, build networks and explore a vibrant city.

by Josefina Achaval-Torre (Argentina) & Chandara Yem (Cambodia)

Caring for soils

You will only take an interest in soils and protect them if you know about their importance, right?

Ackerdemia e.V. supports schools all over Germany who wish to set up school gardens where children and teenagers can explore the origins of food and land management together, with expert guidance. During our visit to the Ackerdemia office in the Berlin ‘Malzfabrik’, Jan Jansen introduced us to the association’s educational approach.


PAGE Ministerial Conference 2017

– Relative Anxiety –

by Sean Townsend (Jamaica)

On March 27, 2017, the CIPSEM EM40 cohort travelled to Berlin, Germany to attend the second staging of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference. Before exploring the activities of this 2-day conference, it is first important to reflect on the genesis of PAGE.

In 2012, Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) was held in Brazil. The conference’s outcome document entitled “The Future we Want was a call to action for governments, businesses and the UN alike to support countries interested in the transition to a green economy in an inclusive manner (for people, the planet and prosperity). This call to action resulted in the creation of an action plan, which would use the window of opportunity identified for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as laying a foundation for addressing climate change from 2015-2030. This plan would involve Ministers, heads of UN Agencies, business and thought leaders, representatives from civil society and development partners and so the PAGE was launched in 2013.

The focus of the 2017 conference was to explore how our investments, lifestyles and growth patterns can be “enablers” for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. It also sought to answer questions such as:

  • What are the necessary ingredients for the transformational change required to deliver prosperity for all on a healthy planet?
  • How can the shift to the Green Economy be accelerated by widening existing partnerships and initiatives to build inclusive green economies?

It should be no surprise that the conference was well organised. It consisted of several main plenary sessions addressed by influential keynote speakers who took the opportunity to make jabs at the current USA administration, especially because of the denial of the existence of climate change which is quite clear to the rest of the world, but that is not the focus of this reflection. Parallel sessions ranged from fascinating case studies presented by state ministers, leaders of global companies as well as young entrepreneurs all working towards the smooth transition into the Green Economy. I should also mention the food provided was superb and dining with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum was neo-historic.

At first, it was fascinating to observe the level of thinking which has been put in at the higher level by the PAGE partners and the myriad of factors under consideration. But I could not help but wonder how does this transition into reality? How does it accommodate John Public and those of us residing in the developing world?

With these questions, I decided to dialogue with my fellow participants to get feedback to these questions. Like myself, many were impressed with the organisation of the conference and the level of thinking put into the process by scholars and sector leaders. However, we could not help but feel left out of this people-centric process as there was no definitive plan of action and those that were illustrated seem to address stakeholders “who must be aliens from another planet,” as expressed by one of the participants. Many felt the transition to the green economy was imperative but the developing world is not ready, and there is no proper plan of action to address this. It seemed it was business as usual; providing aid to developing countries, instead of building capacity in the true sense to enable us and to put a stop to this dependency on developed countries. During one of the discussion forums, one participant expressed that PAGE 2017 was like “a ‘family wedding’ where one could be caught up with the global family;” I then wonder if the developing world was a distant cousin.

Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to network, meet leaders of industry and state as well as meet fellow compatriots and especially the women working in this area. The EM40 cohort also took the opportunity to share with conference participants, information on the CIPSEM programme. Who knows, maybe in the near future the CIPSEM programme may include some high profile participants with deep governmental nepotic connections.

Perhaps transition into the Green Economy requires an action plan developed by the developing nations for implementation, influenced by the ideas of the youth and adapting those of the developed nations.

Berlin – between the future and the past

The CIPSEM trip to Berlin from the 20th to the 22nd October was a truly marvelous experience. The excursion to the German Energy Agency and the German Energy Association of Energy Cooperatives was overly interesting and useful. Both resource persons had an excellent sense of humor which greatly contributed to a sense of camaraderie among the group.
However, for me, the true highlight of the excursion was being able to finally practically envisage the remains of the Berlin Wall after having been provided with an excellent historical overview in our first week at CIPSEM (complete with a quirky, hilarious video!!). Looking at the wall was a truly humbling experience as I was mentally transported back in time to the 9th of November 1989. I imagined the scores of people who had come to witness this historical occasion, the breaking down of a barrier that had separated brothers, sisters,sons, daughters cousins, friends…..finally being brought down. The tears of joy commingled with tears of anguish brought on by the effusion of emotion on this day must have flowed both fervently and freely. I stood there transfixed next to Checkpoint Charlie and imagined individuals getting their passports stamped in order to cross into West Berlin and back into East Berlin.
The enormity of it all cannot be put into words. Staying on an extra day after part of the group left Berlin allowed myself and one of my colleagues to take a city tour on the ubiquitous red “double decker” bus. We were taken on a trip down memory lane to Karl Max Street, complete with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) styled houses whose design was mandated by the government at the time, complete with certain symbols above the eaves of each window. We also got to see the captivating Berlin Bridge in seemingly suspended animation with the modern day yellow train traversing its lower reaches, a perfect juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern.
My Berlin experience was a personal indictment of the fact that a Wall could not and cannot solve political or ideological differences in the past or in the present.The willingness to respect other people’s opinions and genuinely listen to their viewpoints is what ultimately will see a semblance of peace returning to our tumultuous world.
by Mr. James Paul Mwangi – Kenya

Berlin Adventure

By Gulnara Anapiiaeva (Kyrgyzstan)

It’s mostly known that capital city of each country has more options on each sector, as it concentrates governmental and non-governmental institutions. CIPSEM organized a study trip to Berlin between October 20 and 21, 2016 and we, the participants of SC69, could have this opportunity to visit several federal and non-governmental organizations. In addition to this, we could explore Berlin’s historical and cultural sites between courses.
Our first meeting was with Mrs. Königsberg, who took us to discover the nearby surroundings of the BMUB (Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety), since it is located in an area having historical traces of the border zones of Eastern and Western Berlin. Mrs. Königsberg was very enthusiastic to speak about the situation in Berlin during the 1962-1989 years. Participants were eager to listen and asked questions even though it was cold and cloudy outside in Berlin.

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The next meeting was followed after the lunch break, which helped everybody to warm up and restore energy! We were well surprised to discover a small, but important community grey-water recycling center in the down town of Berlin managed by Mr. Nolde. This meeting was concerned to energy and recycling. Mr. Nolde explained all aspects of grey-water recycling in it’s three steps. Personally, I was surprised that there is another view to recycling of water in Germany, as it’s also an energy source!!! Overall, Mr. Nolde explained also water recycling challenges and new water concepts and regulations in Germany. The other discover was that this facility was managed only by one person and it was well automated and organized.
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Afterwards we could go back to our hotel by sightseeing Potsdam Square, the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the German Parliament Building – “Bundestag” and the Chancellor’s office.

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The second day started with a visit to the German Energy Agency (DENA), where Mr. Schmidt presented this very institution. The expertise, consultancy as well as developing strategy and monitoring of renewable energy sector in Germany.
The final visit was at the German Association of Energy Cooperatives, which is located next to the Brandenburg Gate. The participants could learn projects, tasks and functions of more than 800 cooperatives in the renewable energy sector of Germany. Having finished our visit, we said each other ‘see you again at CIPSEM’, since the majority of participants rested in Berlin or went to other cities such as Amsterdam and Paris for the weekend.

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At last, I can say that we were warmly welcomed it was a very helpful visit at each organization during the two-day gateway in Berlin.

CIPSEM meets the German president

For two days, CIPSEM presented how TU Dresden contributes to addressing essential questions for our common future at the “Woche der Umwelt”. This event – literally ‘week of the environment – showcases innovative projects contributing to environmental protection and sustainability. It is special, because exhibitors and projects come from all parts of society: universities and research institutes, ministries and government agencies, NGOs, enterprises, professional associations, youth, and many more. The venue is also unique: the meeting takes place in the garden of Bellevue Castle, and is hosted by the president of Germany.

Almost 12 000 people came to learn about and to get in touch with various initiatives, as well as to join one of the numerous panel discussions on issues such as the energy transition or sustainable cities.

In his opening speech, the Federal President, Mr. Joachim Gauck, referred to the Agenda 2030: “Especially now we need additional momentum for more environmental protection, as we have agreed on ambitious targets for sustainable development and climate protection on an international scale.”

At the CIPSEM booth, visitors were attracted by a wheel of fortune presenting a selection of countries from which our course participants are coming (out of 138 from which our more then 2200 alumni total since 1977 came). The wheel was a helpful starting point to start discussing about typical environmental problems, how they are related to the sustainable development goals, and how we are addressing these issues in our courses.

Many visitors also used the opportunity to inform themselves about the international master programs in “Tropical Forestry” and “Hydro Science and Engineering” as well as other environment-related study programs at TU Dresden. Overall, we were happy with this opportunity, also because we got in touch with several experts who might teach in our courses in the future.

> More pictures of the “Week of the Environment”, made available by the organizer, the German Environment Foundation, DBU.

> Background information on the “Woche der Umwelt” (German only)


Berlin! We traveled to Berlin!

If you are in Germany, never miss the chance to visit Berlin – a city that combines extraordinary diversity of culture, nature, beauty, historical treasures, and even options of public transportation. We, the CIPSEM participants, had a great opportunity to explore the historical, environmental and economic value of this fantastic city. An excursion to Berlin between 29th March and 1st April brought us to the site where major redevelopment projects are ongoing.

Our first stop was in the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. An introduction to the ministry by Ms. Königsberg was followed up with a lively discussion about our impressions on Germany so far. Then we had the opportunity to meet the head of the Division for the United Nations and the Cooperation with Developing and Emerging Countries of the ministry, Mr. Contius. He elaborated on the German position and his experiences from the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September last year. The visit was concluded with a guided tour through the headquarters of the ministry.


Before continuing the programme, there was some time for Berlin sightseeing and we visited Potsdam Square, the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (German Parliament Building – “Bundestag”).


Our last stop for this first day was the greywater recycling project at Block 6. The head behind this project, Mr. Nolde, explained the historical background of greywater recycling in Germany, his aim and objectives of the project and his idea of new water concepts.

More stations at our excursion to the German capital during the next days were: the Ecological Institute, the German Emission Trading Authority and the German Energy Agency.


Berlin – truly a(nother) city which never sleeps 🙂


Report by Hiba Mohammad (Syria)

Woche der Umwelt – Week of the environment

CIPSEM has been selected among 600 applicants to participate in the “Woche der Umwelt” (week of the environment) in the park of Bellevue Castle. The main goal of this event: make the general public aware of innovative projects focussing on sustainability and environmental issues.

We will be at the official residence of the German Federal President on June 7 and 8 to present the UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB course program on environmental management.


Discussions on resource efficiency in Berlin

We are in Berlin with the 67th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Short Course on Resource Efficiency – Cleaner Production and Waste Management (SC67).

An important dimension of this course is to examine examples of structures and tools which are helpful or outright necessary for a transition to a circular economy.

With this in mind today we have met Dr. Fasbender with whom we discussed how econsense e.V. functions as a dialog platform for German companies interested in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility.

Afterwards, Ms. Vanessa Bach introduced us to ways of measuring resource efficiency and shared some related project experiences of the Chair of Sustainable Engineering of TU Berlin with us.

In the afternoon we were joined by Mr. Mikael Henzler, managing director of adelphi with long-term experience in development cooperation, Ms. Cosima Stahr, expert for green finance, and Mr. Frederik Eisinger, expert for cleaner production and waste management. After dealing with the concept of green economy in developing countries and emerging economies in general, we discussed project experiences related to

  • resource efficiency (increasing resource efficiency in metal finishing SMEs in India)
    waste (formalising the Indian E-Waste Sector & Developing a Waste NAMA in India)
  • sustainable business (the SEED Initiative)
  • green finance (Implementing green credit lines in India)

From these starting points we have looked into ways of supporting the development of enabling conditions for the path to a green economy.