Since its establishment, the REC has been strongly committed to providing environmental information to all key environmental stakeholders - to empower and offer them a stronger opportunity to influence environmental decisionmaking within their countries and the region at large.
In 1997, the REC's Information Exchange Department (IED) provided ongoing informational services to its traditional users, which include in-house REC experts. IED also expanded its services to new target recipients and entered new fields of information dissemination and media.
LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES
The REC's environmental library increased in volume, adding topics such as EU accession and climate change so that the library now boasts some 8,000 publications, periodicals, pamphlets, videos and reference guides covering environmental topics affecting all 15 countries of the region. With some 400 visitors in 1997, the REC library is the largest English-language environmental library within the region. The free information request service was popular in 1997, with some 776 requests answered, 85% within five days, covering requests from draft environmental legislation to examples of waste minimisation practices in CEE. REC databases and directories continued to be in high demand, including the Regional Environmental Experts Database (REED), with profiles of over 1,000 environmental professionals - accessed over 8,000 times in 1997 on the REC's Web site.
As predicted in 1996, growth in interest in 1997 for the electronic information highway soared in Central and Eastern Europe. The REC's Home Page on the WorldWide Web became exponentially popular, attracting 1.6 million visits by the end of the year (compared to almost 500,000 in 1996). Visits concentrated on the Daily Environmental News and the REC's own online databases, directories and Bulletin magazine. The Web site also received international acclaim as being among the top five percent of all Internet sites worldwide.
IED's Webmaster successfully helped in the creation of training modules and the training of regional environmentalists. Collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development based in Canada also flourished, leading to the creation of the SD Gateway - integrating the knowledge of a network of sustainable development organisations worldwide - and a program for IISD internships at REC head office. The seeds were also sown for IED's involvement in the growing field of telematics - using sophisticated electronic communications technologies to disseminate EU environment and transport related information throughout the region.
PUBLICATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS
Publications continued to be a key product of the IED and of projects throughout the organisation. An updated Government And Environment Directory was released at year's end providing contact information for governmental organisations with environmental responsibilities for the whole region. The third edition of the NGO Directory was finalised, listing over 2,700 NGOs in the REC's 15 target countries, a major increase from 1,681 in the previous edition and proof of the major growth of civil society within the region. The REC essay series also continued with Beyond Borders: East-East Cooperation Among NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe. All REC publications are fully searchable on the REC's Website.
The REC's quarterly newsletter, The Bulletin, increasingly evolved into an environmental magazine for the region. A new "thematic" approach was implemented, including in-depth, investigative feature stories such as the summer floods in Central Europe and the rebirth of the environment in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. Subscriptions to The Bulletin grew, as did visits online via the REC Home Page, totalling some 120,000 for the year with a 90 percent average monthly growth rate.
SERVICES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISTS
IED made major advances toward creating new services for environmental journalists, in order that their reporting lead to increased environmental awareness in the region. A major Environmental Media Conference was held at REC head office for Hungarian journalists to improve their environmental reporting skills. Preparations were also made to initiate a new Media Information Service for environmental journalists in all 15 countries of the region, providing concise information on environmental topics, experts and news ideas. IED also hosted an event on-site at the REC for the International Federation of Environmental Journalists which held their annual conference in Budapest in September.
In 1997, the REC became one of 22 collaborating centres in a UNEP worldwide network created to help produce UNEP's second Global Environmental Outlook, GEO-2. The REC became responsible for assessing and editing information on current policy responses and the impact of international conventions on CEE countries.
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