Earlier this month, 30 key employees of the Finance Ministry's Budget Division attended a precedent-setting professional seminar organized by SHATIL and six partner organizations on environmental issues. The seminar was part of an effort spearheaded by SHATIL to convince the government to take effective and practical action to protect the environment. A formal part of the Budget Division program, attendance was mandatory for Division employees. Academics and industrialists also attended.
"I sat there pinching myself to make sure this was really happening," said Avner de Shalit, head of the department of political science at Hebrew University and veteran environmental activist, who gave the introductory lecture. Heads of green organizations, who are partners in the "Green Agenda" effort, led sessions on strategic planning in the water economy, renewable energy and promoting public transportation.
Garbage dump in the Arab village of Madg El Krum
"Finance Ministry officials said this is the first time a group of civil society organizations have run a mandatory seminar at the Budget Division," said Avi Dabush, coordinator of SHATIL's Environment and Community Project. "It's a collaboration that can lead to practical, effective results."
The goal of the seminar and the surrounding year-long dialogue with the Finance Ministry is to stimulate awareness and generate work plans around environmental issues. The work with the government is based on a Green Vision document written by the six environmental organizations, edited by de Shalit and coordinated by SHATIL. The document focuses on transport, energy, water, local economies and open green spaces. Work plans developed by the Budget Division are translated into budgets for government approval.
Specific goals in the Green Vision document include a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption by the year 2025 and by 50 percent by 2050; an increase in travel by public transportation over and above travel by private vehicles, and the rehabilitation of polluted open spaces.
The year-long effort has included meetings with Finance Ministry officials in charge of each of the areas addressed by the Green Vision document. SHATIL and the organizations are now working with the Finance Ministry to build the work plans needed to present to the government.