JAPAN SPECIAL FUND
Established in 1993 and sponsored by the government of Japan, the Japan Special Fund (JSF) operates independently within the framework of the REC to help develop market-based solutions to environmental problems in CEE countries, generally in the form of technical assistance.
For 1997, in an area of the Ziar Valley in Slovakia, a JSF environmental assessment led to proposals for the remediation of contaminated soil and optimal land use. A major result was the securing of bilateral aid for extensive technical assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the entire Ziar Valley area. In Poland, the JSF completed a study of the Utrata River, a near-open sewage channel which bisects the city of Warsaw - leading to the identification of technically viable cleanup solutions. In FYR Macedonia, project cooperation between the national government, the REC's Local Office and the project's main beneficiary, MHK Zletovo, a major zinc smelter, led to the immediate implementation of projects suggested by a JSF study commissioned to solve Zletovo's wastewater problems. In Lithuania, a REC/JSF project received substantial co-financing from the Danish EPA for professional hazardous waste management training. And in Albania, although civil unrest delayed completion of a REC/JSF project to bring emergency assistance to rehabilitating water supply infrastructure in the town of Fier, the World Bank remained strongly committed to program implementation.
NEW REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL CENTERS (NEW RECS)
The process for setting up a "REC-like" organisation for the Newly Independent States (NIS) has been proceeding with the support of the REC since the last inter-ministerial conference in Sofia in 1995. Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine are the first four countries targeted for NewRECs, with implementation being carried out by an International Supervisory Body (ISB) consisting of host country governments and NGOs, partner countries and other international organisations.
The REC has assisted the ISB by attending its meetings and offering advice and support. Within the framework of an EU TACIS-sponsored project, REC staff assisted with the first phase of establishing a NewREC in the Moldovan capital city of Chisinau, including the elaboration of its first annual work plan and organisational structure.
INTERNATIONAL BRIDGING INITIATIVES
The REC's Conference Department managed to bring a number of significant benefits to the organisation by providing a forum for unique initiatives, networking and the sharing of experiences among the region's diverse stakeholders and nationalities. Some 41 events occurred at the Conference Centre in 1997, organised by REC staff and external clients, including a CEE first in May sponsored by the Hungarian Parliament. During the event, Hungary presented its national environmental action plan (NEAP) to its neighbouring countries to inform them of its actions to satisfy international and transboundary obligations for protecting the environment. Also in May, the REC hosted the first ever regional forum where NGOs from CEE and the NIS could meet with the World Bank and other major world donors to discuss possible avenues of cooperation. And in April, the Environmental Watchdog Group of the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERI), a professional business association of major European companies, met with some 20 Hungarian business executives to discuss environmental problems faced by the Hungarian business community.
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