LFMI: Passiveness and Distrust Hinder Agreement on Environmental Protection

susitarkim (3)Vilnius, February 19, 2015Merely 3 percent of Lithuanians are actively involved in solving environmental protection issues. The participants of the conference “Let’s Agree on the Environment” see it as one of the problems preventing agreement between local residents, investors and public authorities when it comes to implementing investment and development projects. The event was organised by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute and gathered together representatives of non-government organizations, local communities, business companies and municipal authorities.

“It is important that it is local residents who address environmental issues, because communities and investors have the same goal of making our lives better. It is important to advance sound arguments, express your position, discuss and negotiate. This requires mutual trust which, unfortunately, is often missing,” – said President of LFMI Žilvinas Šilėnas in his opening speech.

Dr. Aistė Balžekienė (Kaunas University of Technology) noted that only 3 percent of Lithuanians support or are members of environmental organizations, participate in events or sign petitions. To compare, an average of 12.8 percent of Western European and Scandinavian societies and 5 percent of the population in Central and Eastern European countries are active.

According to the conference speakers, the environment involves environmental protection as well as economic, social and legal circumstances, but people often look at it only through the prism of environmental protection or investment.

“Communities play a very important role when it comes to investments. It does not mean that an active community scares them off. It is unconstructive dialogue and surprises that are discouraging. As an example, a certain community living outside the investment area shows up after an investment plan has been announced. We have to ask the actual local community if such representation properly serves their interests,” – said Emilis Ruželė of Invest Lithuania.

President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists Robertas Dargis suggested that deeper anthropological research would be needed in order to find out what makes Lithuanians disagree. “The discussion on finding an agreement should start from self-awareness and realization of what would make life better and how to agree with the neighbors.”

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The international seminar “Let’s Agree on the Environment” was part of LFMI’s new initiative “Let’s Agree.” Presentations were delivered by LFMI experts and representatives from the Kaunas University of Technology and foreign non-government organizations. Through this initiative we aim to equip members of local communities with necessary skills to engage in sound and meaningful discussions and reach peaceful and constructive agreements with other community members. Learn more about the project: http://en.llri.lt/initiatives/lets-agree