1. What is your view on Montenegro’s role in the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations adopted last year? Which steps were taken by the government already and what goals within the 2030 Agenda are the biggest challenge for the country?
The Agenda 2030 based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals, representing a vision of a better world in next 15 years, is a quest of all UN member countries. Within the UN Country Team in Montenegro, we have 5 resident and 10 regionally-based organizations, helping Montenegro to achieve national priorities, primarily EU integrations. Therefore, the UN Team in the country helps Montenegro to use Agenda 2030 as an accelerator of the EU accession process. The first milestone in this regard is the fact that the Government integrated SDGs into the national Sustainable Development Strategy by 2030, what proves that Montenegro is already taking concrete steps in bringing the SDGs into its Development agenda.
As a reminder, the Sustainable Development Goals are an integrated set of 17 Goals designed to address global social, economic and environmental objectives. The Agenda is universal, all member states are signatories, rich and poor. It addresses a broader range of issues than its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is ‘indivisible’, cutting across the UN charter and putting peace and security, human rights and development in the same manifesto. For the first time, biodiversity, life below water, sustainable urbanization, consumption and production, action for climate change, equality and the partnerships and institutions needed for peace, justice and to deliver change have equal standing in an agreed development framework.
2. For many years now Human Development Index (HDI) was calculated for Montenegro. What is its main objective and what is the position of Montenegro in relation to the Index?
The Human Development Index is UNDP’s summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.
Levels in human development continue to rise in Montenegro according to the latest Human Development Index (HDI). Montenegro’s HDI value for 2015 is 0.802— which is in the very high human development category — positioning the country at 49 out of 188 countries and territories. Montenegro is better ranked then some EU member countries, i.e. Romania (52) and Bulgaria (59). Among the Western Balkan counties Montenegro is ranked third best after Slovenia (25) and Croatia (47).
But, when the HDI value for Montenegro is discounted for inequality in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level – representing those, who are suffering multiple deprivations in education, health and living standards it falls to 0.728 due to inequality.
3. There are many other UNDP activities in Montenegro. Can you single out some of the key ones?
I have two jobs in the UN; one as Resident Coordinator of all UN Agencies and one as Resident Representative of UNDP. In the later role, I can speak for UNDP and describe the key focus of its programmes. This is in supporting improved democratic and economic governance and targeting issues of environmental sustainability and social inclusion.
In cooperation with the Government UNDP focuses on sustainable development in the areas of sustainable tourism, sustainable energy, resource and ecosystem management, climate change and environmental security. Important programme results have been achieved in the area of natural resources management where the territory under protection was increased by approximately 50000Ha leading to an increase of the total territory under protected status to 12,7%, and also in the area of energy efficiency schemes implementation with local government, development of concepts and new replicable practices around sustainable tourism as well as in waste management, particularly highly polluting sector such as chemical waste.
In Cetinje, the Beautiful Cetinje project promotes economic revitalization of the old royal capital through urban reconstruction of the cultural heritage with energy efficient considerations, support to small businesses and encouragement of green design ideas and innovations in the overall urban development.
We also very much focus on empowering women, and that’s why the gender mainstreaming is a crosscutting issue in all our projects. Whatever we do, we make sure the needs and energy of both genders are equally represented. In the context of the country’s recent elections, our proactive communication to increase visibility of women resulted in the 30% of women on the party candidates lists.
4. You are a spatial planner by profession. In Montenegro many spatial plans have been or are in the process of adoption at the moment, like the one concerning the coastal area or our national parks, etc. Since we are talking about the most valuable resources of the state what should both planners and authorities pay particular attention to when drafting these plans?
When I arrived in Montenegro, I read an interesting document – The Tourism Plan and Strategy for Montenegro until 2020. The plan sets out what different types of tourists would be attracted to in the country and what they look for – beaches, clean clear water and sea, a beautiful unspoilt landscape and the climate. Obviously, there is little that can be done about the climate – although implementing climate change targets, along with the rest of the world will help – but preparing good urban plans with high standards and strong design requirements and making sure that they are implemented is key to protecting and keeping these features in Montenegro and ensuring it remains an attractive place to attract tourists.
When I worked in Hong Kong – the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines were like a bible, all planners, developers and ordinary people knew what the standards were and made sure they were implemented. In the UK, in pretty coastal towns that want to attract tourists, the size of windows on a building, the materials it is constructed with and the color of the roof will all be prescribed by the ‘design guide’ so that the character of the place is preserved as new building occurs. Montenegro has been very good at preserving, with the help of UNESCO, the older parts of the built environment, but less effort has been given to the landscape setting. Keeping the overall landscape undeveloped, protecting important views and sightlines. All these little actions are so important if the very special character of Montenegro and its attractiveness for tourism is to be maintained.
5. This September, Montenegro marked the 25th anniversary of the Declaration of the Ecological State of Montenegro. What has yet to be done in order to really achieve the goal proclaimed by the Constitution?
It’s a process rather than a simple, executive decision. These things take time. And I believe Montenegro is on an excellent path. The country has made a firm commitment to promote green growth and the “Eco-State” concept. Over the past decade Montenegro has made important steps to align its legal and policy frameworks with the international environmental norms and standards, but challenges persist in the implementation.
What I think is quite valuable is the increase of public scrutiny over the country’s commitment to “go green”. We are all witnesses that media and civil society are quite sharp on this, voicing rapid decline of environmental conditions, with particular concerns about pollution and the exploitation of natural resources.
Through the Center for Sustainable Development, a joint venture of the Government and UNDP we will focus on integrating climate change targets and environmental protection measures into national policies and planning, on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, on supporting integrated waste management and ecosystem management and on improving capacities and awareness for resilience to disasters. UNDP will support the transition to low-carbon development through investments in green businesses and jobs, aiming to create better employment opportunities for all. In partnership with the EU, UNDP will continue to address the environmental challenges, especially in relation to chapter 27, expected to be opened for negotiation in 2017.
6. The historic Paris Agreement to address climate change entered into force on 4 November. What will now happen?
The Paris Agreement will mark, we hope, progress towards a more predictable future for the world’s climate – keeping temperature rises to below 2 degrees centigrade. Every country has submitted Intended National Contributions (or INCs) that pledge by how much they will ensure greenhouse gas emissions are reduced in their country. In the case of Montenegro, the country has committed to reducing emissions by 3700t by 2030 based on 1990 levels.
Montenegro is a low emitting country, nevertheless the actions here in Montenegro are also part of the solution. One of the sectors that climate change would strongly affect is off course tourism. And the country plans to be part of the world efforts to battle climate change also through supporting low-carbon tourism development.
7. Everyone talks about the innovative project "Towards Carbon Neutral Tourism in Montenegro". Can you tell us what the objective of the project is, and what advantages its implantation can have for Montenegro and its citizens?
UNDP and the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism are identifying ways to help the country transition towards carbon neutral travel and tourism mainly through encouraging sustainability and innovation in tourism businesses. The project, financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), provides co-financing in the amount of 1 million dollars, also technical and financial support to innovative, investment projects, which are actively contributing to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change in the tourism sector.
A polycentric Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan for Boka Kotorska Bay and Cetinje has been developed, aimed at a more accessible, secure, clean, environmentally friendly and reliable urban transport system for the area. Low-carbon and zero-emission public transportation opportunities will be explored such as, new solar-electric or hybrid intercity boat and ferry service in the Kotor Bay, increased use of electric shuttle buses, biogas and/ or biodiesel.
8. You were born in Scotland. What are the main similarities and differences between the two countries (Montenegro and Scotland)?
The landscape and history in both countries is similar. Both are beautiful and have a rich and long history of proud rural communities. Both countries are popular for tourism, I was recently in Edinburgh where my daughter has just started University and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival had just finished. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world with live theatre and comedy performances. In 2014, 400,000 people visited the city for the festival and ticket sales were nearly 2 million UKP.
A couple of differences also spring to mind. Scotland has a very good planning system: National spatial plans, set the framework for what can be built where at regional and district and local levels. The investments in transport and infrastructure lead not follow urban development and huge efforts have gone into defining the landscapes for high quality and protecting them. Scotland also went through similar challenges when it comes to good planning system. So, I’m sure there are plenty of good lessons that two countries can learn from each other.