Together for the Environment
Together for the Environment, an initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Belgrade Open School (BOS), organised a conference devoted to sustainable financing for protected areas. The event served as a venue for lively discussion between businesses, public authorities, protected area managers, and key experts in this area. The conference focused on current Serbian and global policies and practices for financing protected areas, as well as recommendations for enhancing the current financing framework to help preserve biodiversity, improve governance, and explore opportunities for greater private sector engagement.
The event also discussed the issue of managing natural resources and safeguarding biodiversity, highlighting the need for closer collaboration between local communities, businesses, and government agencies in order to foster effective partnerships in protecting Serbia’s natural heritage. The participants exchanged ideas about regulatory amendments and mechanisms intended to mobilise private and public resources to ensure a sustainable financial framework for protected areas whilst combining best global practices and local experiences.
‘This project takes place at a time when climate change is having a major impact on this region and when green transition policies are turning from something it is nice to have into essential features for both the government and the private sector, and, ultimately, for the whole of society. With this in mind, it is crucial to understand how we can ensure that changes to regulation and practices employed by protected area managers, businesses, and the general public result in an improved relationship with nature, especially in these protected areas’, said Amalija Pavić, Deputy Executive Director at AmCham Serbia. ‘AmCham will definitely work to promote private investment into protected areas and lobby for regulatory amendments and changes to practices that will make those investments attractive for more businesses,’ Ms Pavić added.
Milica Bisić, Professor of Public Finance at FEFA and Head of Markets at consulting firm KPMG, presented the findings of an assessment of the current Serbian financing framework for protected areas and recommendations for its improvement, including arrangements to make managing and financing protected areas more sustainable. ‘Recommendations for additional sources of finance include increasing budget transfers to protected areas, introducing tax incentives for private sector investments in support of protected areas, and voluntary payments for ecosystem services provided by protected areas,’ Ms Bisić said. In addition to suggesting options for new financing, she also proposed measures intended to make planning and financial management of protected areas more transparent, as well as to enhance oversight of biodiversity conservation.
Goran Sekulić, Senior Expert on Protected Area Management with the global environmental organisation The Nature Conservancy (TNC), summarised best practices in financing protected areas worldwide and financial models that may be applicable in the Serbian context. ‘To achieve sustainable financing for protected areas, we have to consider and develop different sources and mechanisms of financing that reflect the specific features of each individual area. To be successful, these mechanisms have to be rooted in collaboration with users and local communities, and care must be taken to ensure transparency and equitable allocation of funds. We must also keep in mind that the primary objective of protected areas is to preserve biodiversity, and as such any funds must be used for that purpose and must not support activities that jeopardise key natural values,’ added Mr Sekulić. TNC showcased its comprehensive approach to policy, focusing on the importance of having key conservation objectives, responsible forest stewardship, standardised user fees, tourism potential, capacity building, payment for ecosystem services, and more government funding.
‘In addition to enhancing environmental legislation, which the Ministry of Environmental Protection will work towards in the coming year, there is also a need to simultaneously align sectoral policies to improve efficiency in safeguarding biodiversity and striking a balance between environmental protection and developmental objectives for protected areas,’ said Aleksandra Došlić, head of the Unit for Protected Areas, Geodiversity, and the Environmental Network at the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Ms Došlić took part in a panel discussion moderated by Milica Bisić that also included Dragić Karaklić, Director of the Tara National Park, Slobodan Simić, head of the Zasavica Special Nature Reserve, Maja Jerkić Bogosavljević, ESG expert at UniCredit Bank Serbia, and Goran Sekulić.