The Black Sea
Common Responsibility
Common Ground
Action Plan


The symposium made an important contribution towards a more general understanding of the environmental crisis affecting the Black Sea and the coastal areas beyond its shores. However, many of the speakers recognised that mere understanding did not go far enough. Bringing the knowledge of science and the wisdom of religion together as a joint force should enable a new approach to tackling many of the environmental problems at source - in the failure of humans to be good stewards of nature. Many proposals were made during the symposium, a number of which were strikingly similar. We have condensed the conclusions of this work and hope that it may be followed up by all who participated in this event or who have taken the time to study this book.

One point that is important to clarify from the outset: the symposium did not pretend to replicate the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan, which was signed by the six Ministers of the Environment of the Black Sea countries on 31 October 1996. Indeed it gave its full support to this excellent strategy and participants expressed their strong desire that the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan should be implemented without further delay. The actions presented here complement the Action Plan and offer new insights into practical activities for achieving its objectives.

The actions proposed by the symposium fall into four general groups: actions to enhance governance; development and use of the public media; enhancing environmental education; and actions to encourage participation of civil society in environmental issues.

Enhancing governance


A number of strong commitments have been made by governments in the Black Sea region for programmes which would help to save the Black Sea from further degradation and to restore it to a diverse and healthy state. Unfortunately, these programmes are not being fully implemented. The problem would seem to be due to the weak position of Ministries of the Environment in central governments but the issue is in reality more complex. In many cases, the role of regional and local governments is poorly defined and foreign aid, channelled through central governments, has little impact at the local level. Much more work is needed at the local community level if democratic structures are to be enhanced. The Black Sea may be a very small part of a plethora of problems being tackled by central governments but is a much more significant issue in coastal communities whose livelihoods depend upon the health of the sea.

The Black Sea Environmental Programme (BSEP) is currently coordinating international efforts to save the Black Sea. The BSEP has been successful in building capacity in the Black Sea on a wide range of issues and in helping governments to develop new policies and to lever the necessary financial investments to put some of them into effect. As participants in the symposium appreciated, some of the countries in the region are facing difficult financial circumstances in their transition to western-style democracies and market-based economies. There is even less to spare for international environmental work such as the BSEP.

Actions proposed by the symposium

The symposium initiated a call to international donors to continue funding for the BSEP. The initial response from the European Union, the Global Environmental Facility programme and the World Bank has been very positive. This does not imply however, that the problem has been resolved as the rules of the Global Environmental Facility and the World Bank do not enable further direct support. Donors were particularly invited to enter partnership agreements with the governments in the region.

Coordinated donor support is urged to local communities. This is work where all sectors can participate: business leaders to invest and improve the environmental consciousness of local businesses and the advantages of 'going green'; local authorities to seek donor support to exchange experiences of improved environmental policies; NGOs in the West to exchange experiences and know-how with those in the Black Sea region; and religious leaders to work with local communities on environmental protection. This last issue is of particular importance. The symposium highlighted the protection of the environment as a spiritual issue and not just a technical one. Indeed, it demonstrated that part of our failure to protect the environment is a failure in our own system of values and a lack of appreciation of the beauty of God's creation.

Coordination of scientific programmes in the Black Sea region is also tenuous and the existing excellent programmes (initiated by NATO and by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO) need to be institutionalised. Furthermore, the symposium network is a powerful and unique tool, bringing together scientists and religious leaders from all over the world and extending deeply into the local communities in the region. Maintenance of an active network is essential to any coordination programme to save the Black Sea and support from symposium participants is therefore essential.

The symposium also identified the urgent need to bring together a wide sector of spiritual leaders, scientists and members of political and civil society from the Danube basin, in order to examine their role in understanding and protecting the Black Sea environment through protection of this major European river. It therefore proposed to hold a new symposium, Symposium III, 'A River of Life', in 1999, on a vessel travelling down the Danube from Germany to the Black Sea, based on the experiences of the past symposia.

There is a need to maintain international attention on the plight of the Black Sea and to enhance understanding that this is not an issue where a single simple solution can be applied, but is related to the complexity of nature itself. Western participants in the symposium were invited to investigate their own government's policy towards protection of the environment in the Black Sea region and to bring the issues identified by the symposium to their attention. Participants from the region were invited to examine how their governments were implementing the Black Sea Action Plan, and to bring the Plan to the attention of their own local authorities, urging them to participate fully.

Development and use of the public media


In the past five years, the public media has developed in a spectacular manner throughout the Black Sea region. People are spending increasing amounts of their time watching television and it is having an enormous influence on their awareness and attitudes. Environmental reporting, however, is still in its infancy. Few journalists are able to dedicate their work to environmental issues and few scientists take the time to explain their work to journalists. There are very few inspiring, quality, environmental documentary films produced inside the Black Sea region - viewers are more likely to see wildlife programmes from the West than programmes about their unique local ecosystems. Interactive programmes such as chat shows on environmental matters have begun in some countries but they often lack materials or know-how to captivate the audience. Investigative journalism sometimes confronts barriers of press freedom or civil rights.

Actions proposed by the symposium

There has been a large amount of material produced by international and local journalists regarding the Black Sea. Much remains unedited. This material could be compiled or re-edited in a manner which allows it to be distributed at low cost to the television channels in the region. This work could be highly cost-effective but it requires the development of a proposal and budget for submission to donors.

Small training courses need to be set up for environmental journalists. Members of the profession rightly do not expect to be told what to write or what to point their cameras at but nevertheless can benefit from interaction in small groups with successful environmental journalists from outside the region. They can also benefit from opportunities to spend 'quality time' with scientists in order to deepen their understanding of the technical background to environmental issues. These sessions may be organised on an individual basis or structured into workshops to which members of the press can be invited. The workshops need to be designed by journalists working with scientists.

Religious leaders and environmentally aware members of civil society could dedicate time for communicating their own wisdom on environmental issues. Speaking to the press is an important way of reaching a wider audience.

Writing to the local newspaper is an effective means for individuals to express their concern. Few people take the time but many people read the letters. Local TV or radio stations or the news desk of a local paper could be requested to provide greater coverage of the Black Sea crisis.

Enhancing environmental education


The crisis in the Black Sea's ecosystem is part of a planetary crisis in which we are rapidly becoming aware that 'business as usual' is unsustainable. Whilst there is wide agreement that many of the practices associated with our current lifestyles are leading to the destruction of our natural ecosystem, there is a general reluctance to change them. To cherish nature for its own sake, as well as for its provision of commodities and habitat, implies affording it a special place in our system of values. Abject utilitarianism in our society reflects this ethical crisis. We are failing to take care of our environment and to share resources equitably.

During the symposium, it was stated that, 'In the Black Sea region and its catchment, efforts are needed to educate the general public with clear, practical messages about conservation and sustainable development'. The younger generation should be one focus of the energy that we are able to bring to bear on this important task. The formation of sound environmental values and attitudes is not something which necessarily occurs in the family setting. In the West it is common for children to learn at school about changing practices and lifestyles to protect the environment and to challenge their parents at home. Western society is gradually awakening to the importance of environmental education in its widest sense, including both in the formal setting of the classroom and through the direct contact with nature that engenders deeper feelings. Both kinds of educational experience are needed in the countries around the Black Sea as they experience new pressures which encourage individualism and utilitarianism. At this time, the move towards environmental education in schools relies on the commitment and enthusiasm of a few inspired school directors who are trying to unite their efforts in a concerted manner, and their task is made more difficult by limited funding for education.

Religious leaders concerned with the creation of a more spiritual and caring society and who realise that developing a concern for the environment is a part of that process, face similar challenges. In both domains there need to be efforts to increase knowledge, understanding, experience and resources.

Actions proposed by the symposium

(a) Environmental education for and with the Clergy

At the initiative of His All Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, environmental seminars have been held each summer for five years. On the basis of the symposia experience, the focus of the seminars over the next five years is being directed towards realising to its fullest the potential collaboration between religious and scientific leaders, and ensuring that the clergy have what they need to become actors and leaders in those communities whose concerns about the environment are growing. This will be launched through the establishment of a new form of summer seminar or institute. Participants will include clergy, teachers and students from the countries of the Black Sea region, scientists and environmental educators and additional representatives from educational, environmental and religious institutions. Participants will engage in environmental fieldwork, hands-on scientific and mathematical activities, spiritual exercises related to the sacredness of the earth and the development of plans for effectively continuing work back in their home areas. The five year effort will be grounded in the summer institutes but will develop to include communication networks, seminary curriculum development and the establishment of linked local centres for education, training and practice.

(b) Environmental education in schools of the Black Sea region

There are scattered pioneering efforts by individual teachers and school directors in the Black Sea region to make environmental education part of their own curricula. A number of teachers have independently expressed the need to form a network to support their initiatives with access to the international community of environmental educators. This was established shortly after the symposium. However, if it is to continue functioning and to increase its potential, outside support is needed. A number of plans have already been formulated, for example the production of teaching materials about the Black Sea. Many schools need specialised equipment and training. Current capabilities vary considerably - some of those involved already have sophisticated Internet-based teaching systems, others are unable to afford new textbooks or even a telephone connection. The establishment of a Black Sea Environmental Education Trust would assist the teachers in their work.

A series of summer environmental education camps are needed to promote direct contact of children with the natural environment and allow them to deepen their understanding of environmental issues through personal experience.

There is also a need for environmental education resource centres. These could be based upon existing infrastructure in the region and modelled on similar centres established in western Europe and North America. They would be self-sustaining in the medium term but will require initial donor support from outside the region in order to start functioning. State education authorities should be encouraged to support these centres and to gradually amend school curricula to include environmental education.

Encouraging participation of civil society in environmental issues


Individual and corporate action to protect the environment should be an intrinsic part of the development of a pluralistic society. In the Black Sea region, there are very few ways to stimulate the direct involvement of any sector in the hard work of environmental protection. Recognition of special services rendered to environmental protection has been an effective tool in many cultural settings throughout the world. Green awards for industry have been employed in the promotion of the industry itself. Recognition of individuals engaged in environmental work in sectors where it has a low profile (journalism, for example) raises the respectability of being a good environmentalist.

The involvement of the nascent private sector is particularly important in the case of the Black Sea. There is currently enormous development pressure for the Sea to be used as a major oil shipping route and such development rightly deserves to be regarded with caution as it may severely compromise other users of the Black Sea, including its natural flora and fauna. Business partnerships which follow clear principles for sustainable use may encourage practices which are in greater harmony with environmental protection. Environmentally friendly tourism is being discussed in terms of such partnerships but there is no progress in other areas. However, the presence of business leaders in the symposium was clear evidence of their interest in exploring a more active role in environmental protection.

Actions proposed by the symposium

(a) Black Sea Environmental Awards

The purpose of the awards, under the auspices of the Patriarch, is to recognise the accomplishments that contribute to the protection of the Black Sea. Examples include:

1. An award to business and industry leaders to recognise those whose practices have demonstrated a commitment to sustainable development and who have encouraged their colleagues to follow suit;

2. An award to architects, TYPEers and developers who demonstrate through the example of built projects a commitment to sustainable resource use and environmental conservation;

3. A monetary award to recognise excellence in environmental reporting through writing, broadcast, and/or film;

4. An award to recognise a 'Young Environmental Scientist(s) of the Year'.

In all cases, a transparent, impartial and open process would be developed to ensure the highest possible credibility for this scheme. Sponsors are needed to support the awards.

(b) Environmentally responsible business partnerships

There are some important recent precedents for the creation of an ethical code of practice to underpin good business practice. The gradual change in the attitude of many western manufacturers towards reducing waste production offers considerable hope for the future and will lead to positive benefits to all parts of the environment, including the sea and coastal areas. One of the most important schemes brought to the attention of the Religious and Scientific Committee is The Natural Step, an initiative begun in 1989 by Karl-Henrik Robert, the Swedish cancer researcher, and now widely accepted in western countries. He achieved a consensus between a group of prominent scientists and industrialists on four system conditions that determine whether or not an activity is sustainable: materials from the earth's crust must not systematically increase in nature (for example, heavy metals, fossil fuels); persistent substances produced by society must not systematically increase in nature (for example PCBs, CFCs, DDT); the physical basis for the earth's productive natural cycles and biological diversity must not be systematically deteriorated; and there must be a fair and efficient use of resources with respect to meeting human needs.

The four Natural Step principles are an important practical application of the precautionary approach. Their adoption by a group of businesses in the Black Sea region would represent an important covenant which would be difficult for the wider business community to ignore.


The symposium is part of a continuing dialogue on environmental protection in the Black Sea which has resulted in action by individuals or groups of individuals to cherish and protect this unique environment. Nobody is excluded; everyone has a direct role.

The actions presented here are not exhaustive. Each of them reflects the spirit of the symposium and are designed to demonstrate, in a very practical manner, how religion and science, business and politics can work in harmony and bring their unique qualities to bear on the problem of the Black Sea. Indeed, the inspiration of the great world religions reminds us that a small group of committed individuals, united in their beliefs and divine calling, can change the world we live in and restore hope for a better future.