02. Feb 2024.

Every year, on February 2, World Wetlands Day is celebrated, dedicated to the protection of these valuable ecosystems. The Ramsar Convention, adopted in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, aims to preserve internationally important wetlands, especially as habitats for wading birds, which use these areas as rest areas, wintering grounds, and transit stops. Today, more than 170 countries participate in this global initiative.

Ramsar areas are internationally recognized locations of strategic importance for nature, water, and biological diversity protection. They include various ecosystems such as wetlands, ponds, lakes, rivers, meadows, and coastal areas and play a key role in the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. Their main inhabitants are birds, using these areas as rest areas, wintering grounds, and stopovers.

Apart from biological importance, Ramsar areas have other valuable aspects: they are called "kidneys of the planet" because of their capacity to purify water, they are very important for flood defense, they provide space for ecological tourism, etc. Various activities, such as fishing, walking, cycling or river boat rides, organizing workshops and other events, on the one hand allow visitors to experience the uniqueness of these natural resources, and on the other hand contribute to the financial sustainability of Ramsar sites, providing the necessary funds for their long-term protection.

Countries that sign the Ramsar Convention commit themselves to the conservation and sustainable management of these areas, to ensure their long-term preservation of vital ecological functions and well-being for people and the environment. From Serbia, 11 areas are included in this list and they are: SNR "Obedska bara", SNR "Ludaško jezero", SNR "Carska bara-Stari Begej", SNR "Gornje Podunavlje", SNR "Slano Kopovo", SNR "Zasavica", SNR "Labudovo okno", SNR "Peštersko polje", "Vlasina", SNR "Koviljsko-Petrovaradinski rit", and the last one included on this list is National Park "Đerdap", in 2020.

One of the oldest Ramsar sites in Europe is the Obedska bara in Srem, which is made up of diverse habitats and is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA). The notes of naturalists from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century show that up to 4,500 pairs of black ibis gathered here during the nesting season. Due to the deterioration of the habitat, during the sixties of the last century, the nesting of the black ibis on Obedska Bara stopped.


Source: YRS

In order to carry out the revitalization and rehabilitation of the habitat, a comprehensive multi-decade project "Return of the Ibis" was launched, in which the Young Researchers of Serbia, together with the Provincial Institute for Nature Protection, the Provincial Secretariat for Urban Planning and Environmental Protection of Vojvodina, and the JP Vojvodina Forestry participate. The successful revitalization of the habitat was contributed by the involvement of the local government of Pećinci Municipality, numerous national and international institutions, and foundations, and especially the participation of volunteers, which enabled the return of rare species of birds, such as the black ibis and spoon heron.

Since 1997, the international camp "Bird Eldorado" has been regularly organized at Obedska Bara, which gathers volunteers from Serbia and all over the world. The project of the Young Researchers of Serbia at Obedska Bara received numerous national and international awards, standing out as an example of good practice in the involvement of volunteers in nature protection. It stands out as a successful model of cooperation between the management of the protected area, local communities, institutions and volunteers and shows that joint care of these habitats is necessary to preserve their value.

The text was created within the section "EcoReflektor" on the website

Author:  Young Researchers of Serbia

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26. Jan 2024.

When explaining how important a process or concept is, it's always handy to refer to Nelson Mandela. Among other things, he said: "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."

Perhaps this, or similar thoughts, was the inspiration for the delegates of numerous countries who gathered in 1975 at the International Workshop on Environmental Education, held in Belgrade, where the "Belgrade Charter" was published. In the introduction, the Charter has an explanation of the state of the environment - it is stated that the environment is under great pressure due to economic development and technological progress which, although they bring benefits to a large number of people, have numerous social and ecological consequences. The Belgrade Charter states that the goals of environmental protection education are: awareness, knowledge, attitude, skills, assessment ability and participation. It is also interesting that it says that each country should define what "quality of life" means for its citizens.

Photo source:

After Belgrade, an important Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education was held in Tbilisi in 1977, where frameworks, principles and guides for environmental education were developed in more detail.

The conference provided guidelines and recommendations that served as a basis for the development of national environmental education strategies. It was a wind at the back of governments and organizations, which encouraged them to develop programs and take concrete steps to preserve the environment.

Ecological, as we often call it, that is, education about environmental protection has been a part of formal education for a long time through classes in schools and universities that deal with the environment and other related topics. Also, informal education is very present and as many as 83% of civil society organizations state that education about environmental protection/sustainable development is the topic they deal with, and 63% of organizations that education is their most frequent activity (REC Serbia, 2015) [1]. On the other hand, citizens and representatives of institutions agreed that to transfer knowledge from ecology in the right way, cooperation with civil society organizations is necessary (Eco Center, 2014) [2].

New technologies and the development of the Internet have given new opportunities to environmental educators. Now it is easier to reach a larger number of people and work and knowledge are more accessible.

Young Researchers of Serbia (MIS) launched an e-learning platform in 2013. E-learning, especially learning through online courses, has several advantages: it is cheaper than traditional learning, it is more suitable for those who have work and family obligations, it does not require travel and other resources (it has a smaller ecological footprint), users can choose their own pace of learning, can be used multiple times, usually has an additional incentive in the form of a certificate, etc. On the other hand, the lack of interaction with other people, the need for self-discipline and the possibility of using online help in tests are considered to be some of the main disadvantages.

There are currently 13 courses on the MIS platform and over 1500 registered users. MIS courses fit into other activities of the organization that are informal learning: from workshops, seminars, training to volunteer camps.

Globally, the number of programs that provide an opportunity to learn about nature and biodiversity through a direct stay in nature is on the rise.

Unfortunately, when we stop for a moment and think about the situation in Serbia, and also look around us if we are on the street, we see that we have not progressed very much in the last, almost, 50 years since the Belgrade Charter was adopted.

However, we, as a large community of civil society and activists, believe in the words of Nelson Mandela and continue to change the world, primarily Serbia, through environmental education. We know how important awareness, knowledge, attitude, skills, ability to assess and participation in environmental protection are. That's why we try to use our knowledge and experience to influence all those who play an important role in preserving the environment, in which we currently live, and which we leave for some future generations.

The text was created within the section "EcoReflektor" on the website

Author: Young researchers of Serbia




[1] Civilno društvo Srbije u oblasti zaštite životne sredine, priredila Ivana Tomašević, Regionalni centar za životnu sredinu za Centralnu i Istočnu Evropu – REC Srbija, Beograd 2015, str. 13-14.

[2] Rodna perspektiva održivog razvoja, Projekat "ZAinteresovani ZA održivost ZAštićenih područja - uključiti, povezati i ojačati.”, priredio Dejan Zagorac, Eko Centar, Beograd, pages/sr/ekoloski-programi/vode/zainteresovani- za-odrzivost-zasticenih-podrucja.php

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COP28: Historic Agreement or Rotten Compromise?

15. Dec 2023.

Form and essence 

Sultan al-Jaber impressively opened the twenty-eighth UN climate summit (COP28) in Dubai, in his capacity as president. The long-awaited loss and damage fund was officially launched on the first day, and developed countries were invited to start investing. Announced last year, after being in the idea phase for 3 decades, it represents financial assistance to the most vulnerable countries from the consequences caused by extreme weather conditions (droughts, storms, etc.) associated with climate change. 


10. Nov 2023.

According to a widely accepted definition, public policies are everything that the government of a country chooses to do or chooses not to do.[1]Public policy means that this decision is made on behalf of and in the interest of the public, usually initiated and made by the government and implemented by public or private actors. Public policies are decisions that governments make to solve a public problem of significance to society.

If we focus on the environment, public policies should be public decisions by those in power to address environmental pollution problems, issues of general significance to society. So, what are the environmental protection public policies in Serbia? Or to phrase it differently - what have the governments in Serbia chosen to do, and what have they chosen not to do?

First, let's examine the environmental situation in Serbia.

According to a 2020 study, Serbia ranks first among European countries in mortality from various forms of environmental pollution and is the only European country in the top ten globally in terms of mortality. [2] Environmental reports from institutions confirm that Serbia's air was excessively polluted in 2022, mainly due to excessive concentrations of PM 2.5, PM 10 particles, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides. Air was excessively polluted in 21 cities and municipalities, including Kragujevac, Kostolac, Pirot, Loznica, Čačak, Paraćin, Zaječar, Kraljevo, Novi Pazar, Valjevo, Subotica, Sombor, Zrenjanin, Pančevo, Smederevo, Užice, Kosjerić, Bor, Novi Sad, Niš, and Belgrade, with a total population of over 3.5 million people exposed to excessive pollution.

Similar conditions are observed in surface waters. In Vojvodina, 39% of surface water samples are classified as "poor" or "very poor" quality. Although the Danube, the largest river in Serbia, maintains a "good quality" status, the discharge of untreated wastewater into surface waters remains over 85%, putting enormous pressure on Serbia's waters. Regarding drinking water, the situation is somewhat better, but still worrisome. In 2020, over 16% of citizens could access water from their taps considered to pose a moderate, high, or very high microbiological risk to human health. The worst water quality is found in Vojvodina, where over 40% of the population is supplied with water containing increased arsenic concentrations. Waste management is also complex, with only twelve sanitary landfills properly handling municipal waste in 2021. Meanwhile, 58% of the population is not covered by a municipal waste collection system, leading to thousands of non-sanitary landfills throughout Serbia.

Similar information can be extended to other environmental areas – soil, noise, industrial pollution, climate change. All these pieces of information convey the same message: the environment is under threat, and urgent action is necessary!

What action can we take? Are our environmental public policies genuinely addressing the identified problems? Let's examine some of the public policies implemented in Serbia.

Air pollution is a current concern, especially with the onset of winter and the heating season. The obligation to adopt a comprehensive public policy in Serbia, according to the Air Protection Act, dates back to 2013. Two years later, authorities were expected to establish a national air protection policy to create conditions for an institutional system to take measures to avoid, prevent, or reduce air pollution and its harmful effects on human health and the environment as a whole in the territory of the Republic of Serbia. Despite the increasing number of citizens inhaling excessively polluted air each year, as reported officially, Serbia only adopted the National Air Protection Program in December 2022, seven years behind schedule. The program estimates that nearly 10,000 people die each year in Serbia due to exposure to PM 2.5 particles. During the seven years that authorities delayed adopting an air protection policy, almost 70,000 people died prematurely.

Examining the policy for managing industrial pollution, Serbia enacted the Integrated Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution Law in 2004. The law aimed to regulate the operation of facilities and activities with potential negative impacts on human health, primarily major polluters with potentially more harmful effects, such as thermal power plants, ironworks, copper smelters, cement factories, and similar. The law is based on the precautionary principle, stating that every activity must be conducted to avoid significant pollution, prevent or reduce emissions at the source that lead to air, water, and soil pollution, minimize the use of non-renewable natural resources and energy, minimize waste creation, and minimize risks to human health, the environment, and material goods. The law mandates these facilities to obtain integrated permits regulating their operations and their impact on the environment and human health. Authorities identified 227 facilities in Serbia that should acquire integrated permits, setting a deadline for large industrial polluters to align their operations with the best available techniques and environmental protection standards by the end of 2021. However, in December 2021, fewer than 50 facilities had valid integrated permits. From January 1, 2022, the remaining facilities would operate illegally. So, what did the authorities choose to do? They did not choose to increase their administrative capacities to expedite the issuance of integrated permits. They did not choose to penalize operators of facilities that failed to align their operations with the law over nearly 20 years. The authorities did choose to extend the deadline for an additional three years, allowing facilities that significantly pollute water, air, and soil to continue operating as before, thus continuing to endanger people's health.

The dedication of the government to a public policy is most apparent in how limited resources, especially finances, are allocated. So, how does the environment stand in terms of finances?

It was estimated back in 2011 that aligning with EU environmental standards and policies would be the most expensive and complicated aspect of Serbia's accession to the European Union. The estimated cost was at least 10 billion euros, with waste management and wastewater management being among the most expensive. What did the authorities choose to do? First, they disbanded the Green Fund, where funds from various environmental fees were collected. Then, in 2015, they decided to eliminate the earmarked nature of the funds, meaning that environmental fees were no longer dedicated funds for environmental protection but were channeled into the general budget of the Republic of Serbia and allocated according to the current priorities of decision-makers. By tracking the inflow of environmental fees and the expenditures of state and local budgets, it becomes apparent that over half a billion euros have been spent in the last decade on purposes unrelated to environmental protection in this way. [3] Simultaneously, the amount of money allocated by authorities for the environment has decreased year by year. From 0.7% of GDP in 2018,[4] it has dropped to less than 0.2% of GDP in 2023.

What can we conclude about the environmental protection policies in Serbia?

Based on the content of environmental public policies and the financial resources allocated by Serbia for the environment, we can conclude that the environment is not a priority on the agenda of those in power. Considering the effects of public policies for environmental protection, as seen in the poor quality of air, water, soil, and other elements of the environment, we can infer that the implemented policies are not effective. What kind of public policies for environmental protection do we need? For a healthy environment where healthy citizens live, there must be a state environmental protection policy that addresses the real needs and issues of the citizens, and to which the authorities are committed, not only declaratively but also practically – through effective implementation, appropriate financing, and transparent decision-making on the distribution of limited resources.

The government of the Republic of Serbia is preparing a comprehensive environmental protection policy – the Environmental Protection Strategy with an Action Plan for the period up to 2032. This is a new opportunity to correctly identify problems, adequately allocate resources, capacities, and finances, and truly improve the environment. Therefore, the public should send a clear demand to the authorities to choose an environmental protection public policy that genuinely responds to the society's needs.


Mirjana Jovanović

Belgrade Open School

Source: Ekolist

Photo source: Freepik, Racool_studio

[1] Birkland, Thomas (2005), An Introduction to the Policy Proocess: Theories, Concepts and Models of Public Policy Making, London: M.E. Sharpe.

[2] RTS: Srbija prva u Evropi po smrtnosti zbog zagađenja životne sredine (dostupno na:

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Together - is Mother Nature’s Way: The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Celebration

22. May 2023.

Welcome to the biodiversity party! 

Hey there, fellow nature lovers! It’s 22. May - the International Day for Biological Diversity. Do you know what's the coolest biodiversity party in the world? It's the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework - or the “Paris Agreement for Nature”. Now, we know it might sound like a mouthful, but trust us, this is a big deal for our planet and all the amazing creatures that call it home. So, put on your dancing shoes, grab your friends, and let's dive into this biodiversity bash in layman's terms! 

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