|LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR|
In the global arena, 1997 was the year for the UN General Assembly Special Session on the follow-up to the Rio Summit and for the Kyoto meeting on Climate Change. Both of these meetings, five years after hopeful commitments to sustainable development had been made in Rio de Janeiro, presented the global community with the reality that the translation of these commitments into practice would not be a simple task.
Where the merging of economy with ecology was hoped for, only a few threads managed to cross the great divide. Many became disappointed that a fully functional bridge had not been created while others praised the achievements made as the first steps of a long journey. Within this global context, the REC continued to work toward its own sustainability and that of the environment in Central and Eastern Europe.
1997 was an exciting year for the REC, filled with developments around and inside the organisation. The REC hosted the EAP Task Force's first meeting in Central and Eastern Europe in February, as well as the first informal cooperation meetings between the 10 countries acceding to the European Union. We also hosted conferences for NGOs and donors, municipal officials, environmental journalists, European business executives and more.
Our presence was established in the last two of our 15 beneficiary countries - Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia, while we assisted in the creation of NewRECs in our neighbouring countries further east. We continued to promote the value of public participation in environmental decisionmaking, providing valuable input into the drafting of the Convention on Public Participation and monitoring the status of participation in the region's countries.
We promoted and provided free access to environmental information to all stakeholders, including NGOs, governments, businesses, media and the general public. Valuable publications continued to be produced, from directories of NGOs to environmental business surveys to the investigative reports of our magazine, The Bulletin, while the use of electronic communications skyrocketed, with 1.6 million visits to our very own Web Page in 1997.
Much-needed support to NGOs in the region continued through the giving of smaller grants at the local level to larger grants geared to solving environmental issues with regional importance. We also continued our education and training programs for adult environmental professionals, and feasibility studies in cooperation with the Government of Japan.
Within the REC, we also began to adapt to a future with less untied funding and more funding dedicated to specific projects. We introduced a new matrix organisational structure, with vertical departments dedicated to specific types of services, and horizontal projects combining resources inside and outside the organisation to meet specific objectives. In this way, we laid the foundations for the sustainability of the Center both in financial terms and in terms of fulfilling its mission.
It is not an easy task to raise funds for our activities from a variety of countries, organisations and private donors, each with their own objectives, while solving environmental problems and contributing to the global mosaic of sustainability. Nonetheless, we believe that we have begun to put the best structures into place ... testified by this report. The challenge ahead is to creatively and intelligently combine our numerous projects to create an elegant and robust bridge between the present and a sustainable future.
Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary
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