During the past two decades, the international community has witnessed a continuous, albeit slow, global effort to introduce ecological issues as the most immediate concern of mankind, and to bring to the attention of the public the consequences of unrestrained human activity on the living environment. A series of conferences with the same objectives have been held by the UN during this period. The “Habitat” conference in Vancouver (1976) was followed much later by conferences on children (1990), the environment (1992), human rights (1993), population (1994), social development (1995), best practices for habitat II (1995) and “Habitat II” or City Summit in Istanbul ( May – June 1996 ). The next conference will be on food in Rome later this year.
Such programs have significantly influenced the governments of many countries and at the same time have attracted the attention of field experts. The participation of more than 2 400 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) from 155 countries at the recent “Habitat II” conference in Istanbul is a good indication of the success of past efforts in this respect.
However, experience in many developing countries has shown that, unless the public at large does not become actively involved in relevant policies and programs, neither Governmental awareness nor the involvement of the NGOs will have a meaningful impact. Consequently, many such programs tend to remain more slogans. Further, now that ecological issues have become top priorities on the global agenda, the need to have active participation on the part of ordinary citizens to influence policy can be increasingly felt.
Since the Nordic countries have been actively involved in ecological issues at both levels and have generally been more successful than other nations in adopting ecological standards, they once again can be pioneers in providing local, environmentally-friendly patterns of life and in establishing network to disseminate environmental information globally.
The establishment of local networks between different Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations in connection with special multipurpose ecological centers (Ecocentrums) can satisfy such local, regional, and global needs.
In order to show the world community the possible ways that ordinary citizens, acting collectively or individually, can participate in global activities and adopt environmentally acceptable behaviors, I, as the representative of the Department of Human Ecology of Gothenburg University for Habitat II, have presented a practical tool for the dissemination of living environmental issues – the ecological center adopted in Gothenburg as “Ekocentrum”.
How the center was established, how it functions, and what sort of activities it organizes are explained in the Ecocenter of Gothenburg link above of this page.
ECOCENTRUM IN GOTHENBURG
In the proposal, the Ecocentrum is the main tool in establishing a practical, informative, and permanent network between community members. It is easy to start such a “forum” in cities and villages by collecting and putting all relevant local environment issues on a permanent exhibition, supported by different NGO-workshops, etc.
Once these local Ecocentrums are established in each community as local networks, intercommunication, reciprocal visits, the exchange of information, and collaboration between such autonomous centers can be implemented. At first, local networks reach out to embrace neighboring communities in a regional collaboration, then continue on to the national level, in this case a Swedish network. The same activities can be organized in neighboring countries. Finally, the respective national networks can integrate through a so-called “Nordic Eco- Network”. The same activities can commence in other countries to eventually achieve a “Global Eco-Network”.
THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY
Several departments of different universities can support such multipurpose forum. In the case of the Ekocentrum in Gothenburg, such support has been considerable. The planned participation of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies of Human Conditions through the Department of Human Ecology is a comprehensive form of local collaboration with a global aim.
A new series of university courses, “Basic Courses on living Environment” are also planned with direct connection to the Ekocentrum. The courses will introduce theories at the university, which will hopefully be put into practice at the Ekocentrum. Students are to be chosen by a collaboration between the university and a municipal department in charge of adult education for the unemployed.
Details of the university’s role in both education and research are explained in the University link above of this page.
THE ROLE OF THE MUNICIPALITY
The main role of municipalities in the networks is to establish and support the ecological centers. Once such centers are established, it will be up to the NGOs, CBOs, and other ecologically interested persons or groups tp run these as Forums. The running of such forms depends additionally on local legislation and municipal strategies.
The different roles the municipality plays and a description of its assistance to environmental NGOs’ to run such a network are explained in the Municipality link above of this page.
THE ROLE OF THE POLITICAL PARTIES
In Sweden, the support of social activities by organized political parties is common. While other countries may adopt different strategies, the Swedish example of the planned local network is based on the social support of the Folkpartiet.
The party’s role in local and future national networking is to induce social environmental integration by facilitating the simple collection and exchange of global information by its international party members.
Details of the roles of the political parties and its support in starting and extending these activities nationally and regionally in the Nordic countries is explained in the Political Parties link above of this page.
THE PROPOSED NETWORK
Establishing a comprehensive network between the university, the municipality, and political parties through “Ecocentrum” can satisfy local needs. The details of such cooperation are explained in the Political Parties link above of this page.
To provide a sustainable local network local resources must be used to establish It. Accepting this concept, the local network must be centered on:
– local environmental experts, – local activities, – local Non-Governmental Organizations, – local community-based organizations, – local municipalities, – a local (or nearest) university, – the engagement of political parties parties at a local level.
The local network in Gothenburg is accessible to all local networks in the Nordic countries (and the rest of the world) to assist in the establishment of such local networks elsewhere.
The extension of this local network at a national level is the first step to be taken by Swedish members of this proposed network. During the network’s development stage in Sweden, where several Ecocentrums are to be set up, it is hoped that the other Nordic countries will simultaneously commence such activities. This is fundamental to the establishment of a Global Eco-Network in the future.