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Mr Palm's talking points during the Albanian schools going green activity on 8 May 2012

I have been in Albania for more than three years. When we first arrived, we were appalled how untidy many places looked, how garbage was carelessly thrown down the rivers.

Much has improved since then. A lot of effort is done to clean up the environment. I want to congratulate the government, especially the local government units for it. There are many reasons that make it worthwhile to clean up the environment. Perhaps you want to invite tourists and get the hospitality industry going, or perhaps you yourself want to enjoy the beauty of Albania, or perhaps you think it is dangerous to the health of your children. All are valid reasons.

But still, when I travel in a car for a short while, I surely will see a vehicle in front of me, where suddenly the windows get rolled down, and a neatly tied plastic bag of rubbish is thrown out to the side. And I have seen many beautiful picnic spots, that look beautiful until someone goes there to have a picnic.

When we don't like some things any more, or when we want to get rid of paper, glass or plastic, we used to say: Let's throw it away. But there is no away. What we throw into the forest, or into the river, it is not going away. It remains for the next visitor or person to see.

Some of you might think that mainly foreigners are obsessed with such things. But what I try to convey is that the work for a better environment, or environmental protection, requires a change in behaviour. It is not just about organizing a clean-up campaign before the tourists come, but it is about being aware of the environment every day.

That's why, several years ago, we started a campaign. It was called the Child Led Environmental Education Campaign - or CLEEN. When you want to change behaviour, it is best to start with children. Children learn faster than adults, and they learn from each other. The younger the children, the more their learning will influence their behaviour. That's why we brought environmental education into primary schools.

CLEEN became a joint project of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Education, and UNICEF in order to introduce environmental education in primary schools. I also like to acknowledge several NGOs who helped to develop the training materials, conducted training, and helped in monitoring and other activities.

The training used a methodology where children teach children; it also asked children to share what they learned with their family, and bring back the experience into the school. 3,500 teachers were trained in 9 districts, including school directors. Special grants were provided to schools who worked with their communities to protect the environment. 80 schools benefitted from such grants.

Lastly, a campaign called "ABC, which is My Albania Beautiful and Cleen" was conducted. The campaign is based on insights from social development and is meant to directly change behaviour. 40,000 bottles per week were sent for recycling during the campaign.

The programme helped to create a momentum beyond schools. Today, many more people, including politicians and businesses are ready to take action for an Albania which is clean and where everybody respects the environment.

This is also why we are launching today the green schools. This is a new idea to encourage schools to comply with green criteria such as: the schools should be clean, they should have some teachers trained in environmental education, they should have undertaken some measures to protect the environment, they should have worked with the community, or have real examples on how they reduced energy and water consumption - as will be explained later by the colleagues of the Ministry.

All this requires many parties working together. Local government, the community, parents and private sector have to be involved. AMC has been the first to approach such an initiative and to fund the first green schools, and I like to express my appreciation for this. But we need more public and private donors to follow this example.  They all need to come together to help Albania to become a green society.

 

 
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