Syros : Islanders dialogue for the environment- a CPF forum for local champions

40 participants from 25 local entities (associations, social enterprises, volunteer groups) of 10 islands of the Cyclades (Syros, Tinos, Amorgos, Milos, Andros, Naxos, Kythnos, Paros, Antiparos, Santorini) and experts participated in the recent islanders’ environmental Cycladic dialogue meeting/workshop, which took place in Syros island in late October 2019. The meeting was organized by the team of CPF  in partnership with the Protected Area of the Cyclades Management Body, the Municipality of Syros and Plastic Free Greece.

The main purpose was the exchange of ideas, knowledge and best practices but mainly to encourage creative dialogue between  civil society,  social enterprises, local authorities and other organizations already active in the Cycladic islands in terms of sustainability – whether this is waste management or protecting the marine ecosystem, either by protecting flora and fauna, or by eco-tourism, or by raising awareness and environmental education.

The local knowledge was enriched with the presentations of international and European practices, as that of Eric Lombardi, the executive director of Eco-Cycle International and one of the first that introduced the “zero waste” concept and social entrepreneurship 20 years ago in the States. Eric Lombardi after the meeting mentioned: “It was my good fortune to witness the coming together of a group of people full of principle, passion and pragmatism to work for the protection of the Cyclades Islands.  In the social evolution of every place there comes historical moments, and this gathering may be one of those turning points. While no single individual wishes to harm the Cyclades, it is the impact of the masses every season that is the threat.  This small group of dedicated changemakers that came together on Syros are planting seeds that could grow into a larger vision of sustainability for the Cyclades that protects the future of this special place that millions of people around world so love.”. The European “zero waste” progress and its institutional status was presented by Antigone Dalamagas, who represented the Eco Recycling Company and Zero Waste Europe. Finally, the funding opportunities through the EU funding instruments were presented by Demetris Homatidis representing the Green Fund and EU LIFE ENVIRONMENT programmes.

The second part of the workshop brought the participants into an open dialogue through workshops on themes aimed at shaping a realistic vision for the protection of the natural environment in harmony with the wellbeing of local communities. The closing of the workshop resulted in the need to establish a permanent dialogue between the islands, whose support and coordination could play a key role in the Cyclades Preservation Fund. The meeting attracted great attention from the local and national media. It seems the idea of us playing the coordinator role for this alliance of local stakeholders/groups has gone down well, and discussions are ongoing as to whether we repeat next year/formalise the role etc.