Recognizing Uzice, Raska, and Osecina's Dedication to Enhancing Air Quality

03 July 2023
konferencija puna pluća
UNICEF Srbija/2023/Shubuckl

Belgrade, 3 July 2023 - At the final event of the "Schools for Better Air Quality" project held today in the Botanical Garden in Belgrade, UNICEF Serbia and the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, with the support of the Government of Norway, awarded the City of Uzice and Municipalities Raska and Osecina for the greatest progress in 2023 in undertaking actions to reduce air pollution, which were implemented with cooperation and in consultation with young people at the local level.

The winning municipalities were chosen from 15 local self-governments participating in the project. The City of Uzice won the first prize - a solar power plant of 7 KW of installed power, while Raska and Osecina, which won second and third place, were awarded a total of 11 air purifiers. Donated equipment will be installed in facilities or institutions that work with children and/or young people.

Air pollution is one of the world’s largest health and environmental problems. 90% of the world's population breathes polluted air. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because their bodies, organs and immune systems are still developing. Air pollution damages health during childhood and increases the risk of diseases later in life, and children under five are the most vulnerable, as they take in more air proportionally to their weight than adults.

"Many scientific pieces of evidence point to the fact that decisive actions are necessary if we want to prevent irreversible consequences for the environment - there are many environmental problems in modern civilization, and air pollution is certainly one of the basic ones. Good air quality is essential for people's health and well-being, and unfortunately, children are the most vulnerable group. I hope that after two years of hard work within the 'Schools for Better Air Quality' project, we have managed to contribute to the process of solving this important issue that concerns us all," said Nebojsa Cvejanov, Program Coordinator at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade.

Within this innovative project, the first of its kind in Serbia, during the previous two years the education of children and young people on the topic of air quality was encouraged, as well as the inclusion of young people in the adoption of national and local policies on this topic. Furthermore, the importance of air quality monitoring was pointed out, and 15 local self-governments received support for strengthening the capacity to improve policies in the area of air quality management, with a special emphasis on the inclusion of young people in the processes of creating local policies.

"The greatness of this project is that it clearly showed that young people in Serbia are aware of the problem of pollution and at the same time are interested in contributing to the preservation of the environment. Therefore, it is important that local governments, strengthened by the experience gained through the activities of cooperation with young people within this project, continue to show them their trust, by providing them with sustainable ways to express their opinions and at the same time encouraging them to be part of actions and solutions for a clean and healthy environment. Only such an environment is a prerequisite for all children and young people to enjoy their rights and realize their full potential," believes Lidija Kesar, Climate Change and Clean Air Officer at UNICEF Serbia.

Miodrag Gluscevic, Programme Director for Sector for Urban Development at Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, emphasized that local self-governments are one of the key actors when it comes to environmental protection, as well as improvement of air quality at the local level and that the inclusion of young people has brought a new quality to the process of creating and implementing public policies on the local level.

"Through the 'Schools for Better Air Quality' project, young people got the opportunity to be the bearers of change for better air quality and to become key partners of local governments in solving this problem. Likewise, local self-governments have shown great interest when it comes to youth initiatives and their involvement in the development of local policies," said Gluscevic.

This comprehensive project has been implemented by UNICEF with the financial support of the Government of Norway, and with the support of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Tourism and Youth, and in partnership with the Institute of Nuclear Sciences Vinca, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, the Digital Serbia Initiative (DSI), the Internet Society of Serbia, the Petlja Foundation, the Centre for the Promotion of Science (CPN) and the organizations Connecting and Junior Achievement Serbia, and in cooperation with local communities. The MT-KOMEX D.O.O. company donated funds for the solar power plant which has been awarded within this project.

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