Chapter 6: Country Reports
The environmental movement in Estonia has developed substantially since this most northern Baltic country achieved its independence from the former Soviet Union. Initially, only a few NGOs existed, the Estonian Green Movement biggest among them. But a panoply of groups, ranging from local grassroots organizations to professional associations acting at the national and international levels, have since established themselves across the Estonian landscape. These groups work in all areas of environmental protection, and have succeeded in influencing the environmental decisionmaking process in Estonia. International cooperation is mainly related to issues pertaining to the Baltic Sea, but Estonian NGOs are involved in all major environmental issues at the European level.
Results of the Mail Questionnaire
Because Estonian NGOs returned only 13 questionnaires, the results of the survey are not fully representative. (This does not, however, influence the overall accuracy of the survey.) However, some generalizations about the environmental movement in Estonia can be made.
Nine of the responses came from NGOs located in small towns. Other results were similar to averages for the entire CEE region: 31 percent have 5-19 members; 61 percent were created in the 1990s; and 54 percent operate nationwide and have up to three employees.
The most popular activities undertaken by these Estonian NGOs include the dissemination of environmental information (85 percent), education and training (77 percent), and environmental fieldwork (62 percent). All 13 NGOs can communicate in both English and Russian.
Financial support from foreign organizations and the REC are the two main sources of financial support for these Estonian NGOs. Just over half (54 percent) reported annual budgets under USD 10,000.
Needs and Problems
Insufficient funding was cited as the most serious problem by 62 percent of the NGOs. Building institutional capacity, supporting local environmental projects, and developing environmental information networks are the most important types of assistance required by Estonian NGOs. NGOs are most eager to receive training courses on fund raising, strategic planning, media relations, project and financial management, and proposal writing.
The level of cooperation with governmental institutions and other NGOs is mixed. It appears that cooperation is greater with local NGOs and local governments than it is with NGOs from other countries or the national government.
Experience with the Regional Environmental Center
Only one Estonian NGO considers REC Head Office in Szentendre, Hungary a traditional partner; however, 47 percent perceive the REC Local Office in Tallinn as a traditional partner. Most NGOs indicated a varied interest in working with the REC. The US Baltic Foundation, WWF and Ecologia were also mentioned as helpful international assistance organizations. (Note: It should be mentioned that the REC Local Office in Estonia only started operating at the end of 1996.)
As mentioned above, the low response rate in Estonia does not provide an accurate picture of the NGO community in this country. However, it is assumed that the general results of the survey are also representative of Estonia.
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