The Natural Paradise of Vilm

If Helen of Troy is the beauty that lands a thousand ships, the Island of Vilm is the charming  paradise that captivates the generations of Europeans.

This 94 hectares island in the Baltic Sea was estimated to be inhabited by humans in the early Stone Age. Then the Slavic people built a temple there for spiritual purposes and in the Middle Ages it became a place of pilgrimage for Christians. In 1959 and until the dissolution of the GDR, the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic made the island exclusive, with its eleven (11) guesthouses, administrative and farm buildings used as private retreat for high functionaries, including the GDR heads of state Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker. Today, the island is known as former summer residence for aristocrats.

The beauty of this island has also charmed the CIPSEM EM-42 participants during their excursion to the Vilm Island on 13th-18th May 2019. But rather than feeling the hype of the past aristocrats and experience the paradise as vacationers, the participants were also there to attend the module on international nature conservation. The trip from Dresden to Vilm took 8 hours but the participants were not tired because of the island’s healing landscape and warm welcoming  breeze of the wind. Around 6:20Pm, the participants were briefed with a short introduction of the Insel Vilm by Dr. André Lindner (CIPSEM) and Ms. Kathrin Bockmuhl (International Academy for Nature Conservation) followed by a joint dinner which captured the attention of participants. They appreciated how environmental friendly the International Academy for Nature Conservation is. The food was vegetarian from day one and a special fish which can be found only in that region and solar energy is used as a source of energy in Vilm Island. Most of the participants were amazed by watching the sunrise and sunsets in this part of the Biosphere Reserve South-East Rügen.

Vilm Island was a nature reserve since 1936 and it is a core area of the Biosphere Reserve since 1990. During its guided tour around the allowed perimeters of the island, Ms. Kathrin explained that the area is a special reserve, because since 1812 the protection against forest logging in this Island started and since then there was no logging in the area which means this island has  special old beech trees which barely can be found elsewhere.

The week-long excursion was also full of energy-boosting indoor activities, with a constant and fruitful exchange of knowledge and experiences from the German specialists, CIPSEM EM-42 fellows, and four (4) German colleagues from the Master on Biotechnology and Applied Ecology. As one of the focus of the International Academy for Nature Conservation, we had an introduction to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), how the CBD Conference of Parties works and which are the subsidiary bodies. This led us to a simulation game about negotiations on the CBD, when we could know firsthand how difficult, exhausting, and rewarding (all feelings at the same time) negotiations can be. As a complement, during the first night the participants watched and exchanged thoughts on  the movie “Guardians of the Earth”, about negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement in 2015. During this first day, a special reference was done to the IPBES’ 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, whose findings (e.g. one million species are facing extinction) compelled the participants to take urgent actions.

The second and fourth day brought the participants to very important topics. First was the exploration on how benefits from the use of biological diversity could be shared. In this regard, Dr. Ute Feit and Ms. Gisela Stolpe described The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing as a mechanism of the CBD to promote fairer distribution of benefits, taking into account local knowledge. For this, the conflict on Teff (Eragrostis tef) between Ethiopia (where this grain has been adapted and produced for centuries) and a Dutch company that tried to patent teff processing allowed us to discuss fairness, local knowledge, market development, among other key issues for our countries. Later, we became owners of fishery companies to explore our own behavior on the use of natural resources, fish in this case. After ups and downs, we realized how individual and mercantilistic decisions can lead us to ecological catastrophes, which was the situation for cases such as the anchovy in Peru during the decade of 1970. We also had lectures on the IUCN Red List, marine nature conservation and the approach of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects.

On May 16th (fourth day) the participants had the privilege to visit the Conference Centre of Naturerbe Zentrum Rügen, walk through a canopy walkway and explore the National Park Jasmund. A great surprise was seeing how the infrastructure in the canopy walkway was inclusive and provided enough accessibility for people in wheelchairs. The participants also enjoyed how interactive several elements in the canopy walkway and information centre are, making the experience more fun and complementing explanations for the specialists who kindly explained the history, current state and governance system around these areas, which led to discussions and comparisons with the reality in our countries.

Days in Vilm Island were so fast for the CIPSEM EM-42 participants. The proof was their feedbacks of the module, stating that they enjoyed their stay in this Nature Reserve where they used to have parties and karaoke after classes which made the stay more fun and exciting. A special thanks to Ms. Kathrin and the whole team of Vilm for making the stay so good and in a special way. They cared for the Muslim participants who were observing Ramadan by making sure that they got what to eat in their favorable time. That was so much appreciated and the kindness of Kathrin was so touching from day one till the last minute to the boat, saying goodbye to her brought tears of joy to the group. On their way back, the group had lots of reflections and lots of photos from the nature paradise.

by Ms. Liliane Umukunzi (Rwanda) and Mr. Juan del Castillo (Peru), with contributions of Mr. Jun Piong (Philippines), EM-42

photos by Ms. Haili Zhou (China), Ms. Sreymoch Bun (Cambodia), Ms. Hasmik Barseghyan (Armenia), Ms. Thanh Tam (Vietnam), Mr. Juan del Castillo (Peru), and the International Academy for Nature Conservation (INA)

An amazing visit to the State of the Art – Umweltbundesamt (UBA), Dessau

Indeed… the structure of UBA building was the state of the art!

On February 28, 2019, 22 explorers from 22 different countries reached Dessau – a town at the junction of the rivers Mulde and Elbe in the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. We were all excited for our first over-night stay excursion to UBA, but have never thought to see such a higher environmental standard in construction and operation of a scientific building in a small town – Dessau. Incredible eco-friendly architecture, innovative landscape design, energy efficient structure and a blend of seven families of color, the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA) in Dessau was undoubtedly an amazing place to explore.

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Just besides the old Wörlitzer Bahnof, one can see a gateway to the a snake shape UBA building on the right side and a stand-alone canteen, a public park, yew sculpture, crossword puzzle, distinct boulders and a fascinating pond with nesting boxes, hotel for insects and home for beautiful ducks, on the left side.

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Before entering to the UBA building, a group photo of the exciting faces was necessary.

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It is very difficult to decide that what was the first attraction for all of us while entering the building auditorium. Was it the beautiful glass shed roof, colorful facades, environmental library, wind node booth or the LCD screen with photovoltaic system dash board. An interesting fact of this auditorium was that anyone could enter into that area without any prior appointment to observe the beauty of the building and gain access to the biggest environmental library of German speaking world.

After exploring these amazing features of the Auditorium, we finally moved towards the conference room for a series of lectures. But wait, an interesting feature yet to be explored here was ‘the LCD screen traces’ left by the visitors, symbolizing the changeable influence on the world. Another eye-catching art!

The two days, full of knowledge exchange covered some thought-provoking themes such as climate change adaptation, water resource management, green economy, energy transition and so on. The day started with a presentation on UBA ‘Who we are and what we do?’ by Mr. Wollmann. It was very interesting to know that UBA is a Germany’s central administrative authority and is the state’s largest scientific agency with over 1,400 employees at 13 different locations. In addition to the scientific work, the agency enforces environmental laws and work for public disclosure and facilitates access to information. It was very impressive to see the many environmental problems UBA manages! The next presentation was by Ms. Schwetje who introduced us with a concept of short-lived climate pollutants and gave an overview of an ongoing initiative of Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to reduce these pollutants. It was new to most of us that many of our countries are already part of this coalition. At the end of her presentation, she highlighted the resource and climate protection through integrated waste management projects in developing countries, which led to an interactive questions and answers session. Afterwards, we went to the beautiful canteen of UBA to recharge our body and mind. Adaptation to Climate Change, Hazard Prevention and Safety of Installations and Water Resource Management were the post-lunch sessions by Mr. Haße, Mr. Winkelmann-Oei and Mr. Bernd respectively, which provided us a bunch of useful information and potential solutions for our countries. The day did not end here! All of us met for a lovely dinner and chatted extensively on how much we learnt. Next day, we continued our journey of learning more.

How can green economy contribute to sustainable development is a much spoken debate now a days. Mr. Bünger, in his presentation, highlighted the concepts of Green Transformation and Green Skills in context of economy and environment. He also introduced the six green lead markets in Germany and strategies to promote green economy. This important lecture could not have ended without having questions from the participants. When we talk about sustainability, Resource Utilization is an important topic to be discussed. Mr. Nuss highlighted this concept through some global facts and figures. The best part of this presentation was to know about the Material Flow Assessment of the respective countries of all participants. Thanks to Mr. Nuss for bringing up this issue on board. Policy plays an important role in balancing social, environmental and economic activities in order to foster sustainable development. Considering this crucial role of policy making, Ms. Schubert presented the role of UBA as an actor of federal policy for sustainable urban development and share the concept of Tomorrow’s Cities. After having Lunch at UBA canteen, we all gathered for a guided tour of UBA building. I must say that this was the most awaited session of our visit. Thanks to Mr. Bösecke who managed to answer a ton of questions of all participants. Why the small town Dessau was chosen for UBA office was something we all wanted to know. The famous quote of Winston Churchil “we shape our building, and they shape us” is probably the best answer for it. The UBA building is currently situated on a former industrial area of Dessau which was highly contaminated by volatile halogenated and petroleum hydrocarbons. Soil and ground water remediation, ecofriendly construction and liveable working space gives impressive example of possibilities (and challenges) for sustainable urban development. Our excitement did not end here. Mr. Bösecke showed us impressive working environment for employees, green spaces, beautiful plants and trees, and two water basins while walking through communicating staircases and bridges. We were amazed to see that everything in the UBA building had a message to convey. Water ponds helped to reflect sunlight and provide a pleasant acoustic background music. Amorphous green areas with a bed of mineral substrate maintained indoor climate for plant growth whereas flooring of recyclable glass showed the artistic use of waste. The entire building was designed keeping in mind the accessibility. Moreover, the seven colors of facades are also symbolize sky (blue), greenery (shades of green) and old building’s brickwork (purple-red). The use of solar heat collectors, photovoltaic system and the geo thermal heat exchanger along with district heating system was also state of the art.

Last but not the least, the day ended with an energizing presentation by Mr. Werlein on Energy Transition in Germany. It was indeed a wonderful excursion which we will never forget. Special thanks to CIPSEM for organizing such a fun trip filled with knowledge.

by Saba Raffay (Pakistan) and Oleksandra Logunova (Ukraine)

German Environment Agency (UBA) – back again

On April 12th and 13th we visited the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA). It was founded in 1974 and its mission is to protect citizens from environmental influences and the environment from external damages. On our first day, we were welcomed by Mr. Ralph Wollmann, who introduced us to the main objectives of UBA. After that, we had detailed lectures and discussions about environmental perspectives of Germany. The topics were related to energy transition, adaptation to climate change, transboundary water pollution and water resources management.

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Mr. Max Werlein started the first presentation about guidelines for political action in energy transition, which included economic efficiency, supply security, and environmental capability. The next lecture was given by Clemens Haβen which was about adaptation to climate change in Germany and was focused on the role of UBA on policy adaptation and policy cycle, as well as the impacts and consequences of climate change. After that, Mr. Gerd Winkelmann-Oei explained us about protection strategies of transboundary water pollution in Germany. The main topic was on crisis management of hazardous activities in European rivers and the tasks done by the International River Commission. The presentations were ended with a brief lecture about water resource management by Mr. Bernd Kirschbaum and were started by introducing us to general information and short overview about water use and climate. Besides, he presented about wastewater treatment and chemicals status of the surface in Germany. Finally, he pointed out the main problems and new issues of water resources management. This long and enriching day was completed with a short visit to the historical Bauhaus building and a delicious dinner at the fancy Radisson hotel in Dessau.

The second day began with a relaxing breakfast. Then, the first lecture was about sustainable development and green economy by Mr. Bjӧrn Bünger by which details were mainly on inevitable transformation to green economy and the current requirements of changes in consumption and production. He also added that the growth of green markets is a precondition for the green economy. The second lecture of the day was focused on international chemical management by Ms. Johanna Rose/Mr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg and the lectures and discussions were on the need for global action on chemicals, chemical management at a global, regional and national level as well as actions taken. After lunch we made a short guided tour of UBA building with Mr. Max Bӧsecke. Finally, a short presentation and a case study in Costa Rica about tourism and environment were given by Ms. Ulrike Wachotsch.

For us, as reporters and CIPSEM fellows, the main purpose of this excursion was to understand German experience in environmental research and strategies proposals for policies; to make networking with government agency and scientists, and to improve our professional skills in environmental management.

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the authors: Ms. Lourdes Amparo Lares Acero, Peru (right) & Mr. Fisseha “Fish” Berhe Halefom, Ethiopia (left)

Dresden Nexus Conference – at the science-policy interface

by Andrea Vera (Peru) & Fernanda Martinelli (Brazil)

During three days we had the opportunity to participate and be involved in the Dresden Nexus Conference (DNC). The conference was held at the Deutsches Hygiene Museum (a must see museum if you are in Dresden) from 17th to 19th May.

This biannual conference was focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nexus Approach: Monitoring and Implementation. Major topics covered were ‘Wastewater Reuse in Nexus Perspective: Environmental, Economic and Societal Opportunities’, ‘Smart Green Cities: Adaptation and Urban Resilience’, ‘SDG Agenda: Achieving SDGs’, and ‘Resource Recovery and Reuse in Multifunctional Land-Use Systems’.

It was a great space for networking, discussion, lectures and sees the results from case studies around the world. DNC is a platform that brings all stakeholders and actors (researchers, implementers, decision makers) together implementing the Nexus Approach. But what does it mean to implement the ‘Nexus Approach’? This was the first question that some of us were wondering during the conference. First, this approach is focused on Water-Soil-Waste and that all natural resources are interconnected to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).  Amazing goal! But, it is a serious challenge as we look forward to reduce poverty and provide enough food and water for all. Second, this approach also aims to join scientist, implementers, decision-makers and donors to exchange experiences, discussions and close the gaps between actors. This was well addressed, but more involvement from the private sector is needed.  Finally, it seeks to improve governance and participation to implement the Nexus Approach outside the academic circle and intersect all efforts from individuals to governments.

One of the newest sections in the conference was the World Café. During 60 minutes, in a round-table, we dialogued about multifunctional land-use systems and resource management. Every person could choose on which table to participate according to their field of expertise or interest. An expert moderated the discussion and noted the main points of interest to be taken into account for the next conference. Questions like ‘What data is missing?’, ‘How can we monitor and what potentials indicators could we use?’, ‘Which stakeholders should be involved?’, ‘What are the next steps? Where are the information and knowledge gaps?’: among other were discussed and summarized into key points.

Some final remarks that we need to bear in mind: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Management and monitoring is important in every work, so we can see where we are and how are we achieving the goals; we must work together, build bridges between all actors and stakeholders, make connections between governments and financial sector. Let’s move from laboratories and start field implementation. As the Agenda 2030 says: ‘let’s ensure that no one is left behind’.

Photos by Anna Görner

Another knowledge-search excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

by Ms. Kebaabetswe Keoagile (Botswana)

It all started with the admiration of the main building. One would have thought it’s a business building; it is a piece of architectural beauty indeed!

 

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Picture by Bendicto Kabiito, Uganda

That was on the 11 th and 12 th of May, 2017 when CIPSEM EM40 participants had an excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. The Agency is Germany’s central federal authority on environmental matters. According to their website and other websites, there have three main functions.

Its key statutory mandates are:

  • To provide scientific support to the Federal Government (e.g.. the Federal Ministries for Environment; Health; Research; Transport, Building and Urban Affairs);
  • Implementation of environmental laws (e.g. emissions trading, authorisation of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plant protection agents)
  • Information of the public about environmental protection.
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Introduction to UBA (Photo by Andre Lindner)

 

Different topics were presented, graced questions and discussions from the participants. The agenda for sustainable development 2030 was of great importance to generate insights into topics such as Sustainable development, green economy, sustainable resource use, and resource efficiency. Presenters were insightful about the need for action regarding transitioning to green economy. Population growth, high economic growth in developing countries, increasing fluctuating energy resources prices were cited as reasons for action.

And with these actions they are benefits that can be derived and the presenter covered: business opportunities, job creation, less environmental change hence higher welfare and quality of life, less dependency on energy imports and less use of resources, to name a few.

In the discussions, green economy was being viewed an aspect of sustainable development.

It also emerged through the discussions that sustainable development is an overarching vision while green economy gives shape to sustainable development, however, it does not fully address social issues.

It was important for us to learn that Germany has sustainability strategies which include resource efficiency policy and national strategy for sustainable development which were updated in 2016 for alignment the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the day progressed, the Dr. Uwe Leprich, Head of Department under Climate Protection and Energy unit, welcomed us to the Agency and introduced the two alumni of the CIPSEM Programme: Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (a 2015 CIPSEM participant) and Prof. Dr. Bert Kohlmann (a 1981 participant). The two gave interesting presentations about their experiences during the course. The latter noted that environmental issues by that time included ecological change, soil pollution, ozone layer depletion and air pollution, as opposed to climate change. His valuable experiences included making friends who were resourceful for his subsequent collaborations and project work. His projects were more into what he studied during the course (renewable energy and bio monitoring) and currently embarking on renewable energy projects as part of the transition to green economy.

Ms Boti-Douayoua also gave insights into her current work of which she managed to integrate what she learnt from the course on carbon credits. This was evident that indeed the course reaches its objectives of skilling and enriching participants.

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Professor Dr Bert Kohlmann (CIPSEM Alumnus -1981, photo by Dr. André Lindner)
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Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (CIPSEM Alumna -2015, Photo by Dr. André Lindner)

The participants had a relaxed evening and informally continued discussions about the day’s events at a joint dinner at the NH-Hotel (courtesy of CIPSEM secretariat). Some participants had a night-walk within the city centre to appreciate its beauty thereafter. Thanks to CIPSEM invite!

Day 2 was the day to get the practical part of the issues previously identified, with aid of cases from Germany. The topics of the day ranged from climate change priorities, adaptation and institutionalisation, to waste electrical and electronic equipment management and the strategic and environmental impact assessments. Thanks to the presenters for the knowledge share with or imparted onto the participants on the above areas. The participants engaged the presenters through discussions.

At the end one will say it was still clear that the challenge is putting theory into action remains critical in many spheres. One example of such challenges was the comment from a participant on the amount of work done on the environmental issues especially climate change, the results of which are not yet realized.

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Ms Judith Voss-Stemping (presentation on international Climate Protection-Priorities and institutionalization in Germany, photo by Dr. Anna Görner).

Implementation! Implementation! Implementation!

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.

Excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

Our CIPSEM journey continued from 18th to 19th of May 2016 in the city of Dessau. The visit to the German Environment Agency (UBA) began with an introduction and welcome speech by Mr. Ralph Wollmann, who gave background information about the history of the German Environment Agency and explained its participation and contribution to CIPSEM courses. Furthermore Mr. Wollmann talked about the role of UBA in the german society and the international community.

Following up were interactive sessions on several topics from the manifold portfolio of the agency. Among others there were talks on water resources management and climate change adaptation in Germany, transboundary movement of waste, environmental risk regulation of pesticides, green economy and much more.

The stay in Dessau was furthermore accompanied guided tours through the price winning main building of UBA and the world famous Bauhaus.

Report and photographs by Hisham Abdelgawad (Egypt)