Media Relations Guidebook for Civil Society

The democratic public policy decision-making process relies on an informed, educated, and engaged public. Academic experts, government officials, businesses, financial analysts, participants in a specific event, and – most importantly for this guidebook – volunteer non-profit civic groups, often known as non-governmental organizations and civil society actors, provide information to the media. This guidebook takes this factor and the role of the latter as a key premise in building its targeted instructions and practical examples.

Whether NGOs specialize in environmental issues, political corruption, children’s health issues, or drug abuse, these public policy champions have two things the media needs: reliable information and a point of view. Nongovernmental organizations may challenge misinformation, educate the public, set the political agenda, and develop public support for initiatives if they have reliable information. However, NGOs’ facts and viewpoints are useless if they do not or cannot disseminate them to the general public. To gain access to the most important information pipeline – the media – NGOs must first understand the needs of the gatekeepers in the media, then learn the skills and techniques required to effectively present information to the media, and then develop strategies to mobilize their media advocacy resources.

This guidebook provides an in-depth look at the role of civil society and the media, their role in a democratic society, the most effective means of cooperation between the two actors, and how they can complement each-others work in order to create long-term synergies.

The guidebook also provides examples and exercises for the best practices in building marketing plans, social media strategies, communication guides for press releases, and interviews, as well as a comprehensive examination of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign and its achievements and best practices.

For more tips, please find the video below: 

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For Understanding and using Environmental Law.

Albania’s measures to prevent the deterioration of the environment and to respond to environmental change have been increasingly driven by commitments under multilateral environmental agreements on the one hand, but also by domestic needs on the other. This requires government officials not only to understand how to implement existing international commitments but also how to contribute to the negotiation of new international commitments.

A precondition to that is a good understanding of the development, features, functioning, and implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. On the other hand, civil society actors, and environmentalists often face the inability to understand the legal complexity of international environmental law and how to use it in their daily work.

The purpose of this handbook is to provide an overview of international environmental law, focusing on some important multilateral environmental agreements known to the general public.

To help CSOs understand the basics of international engagement, this handbook is divided into several sections. In the first part, is given a general information on international environmental law and its historical development. While in the second part is given an explanation of environmental conventions about the entry into force, their functioning, and implementation. In this section is also given a practical guidance to CSOs so they can understand the mechanism of compliance and the conventions’ implementation in practice.

Based on this information, the third part provides an overview of environmental law in Albania focusing briefly on horizontal environmental legislation. The fourth part is built around the practical implementation of national and international environmental legislation focusing on the case of the Vjosa River and the legal battle followed by EcoAlbania.

The target audience for this handbook is basically the CSOs that work in the field of environment, but it can also be practically used by other stakeholders that seek to understand commitments under multilateral environmental agreements.

For more tips, please find the video below: 

The manual is produced in Albanian and English.

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Eco-Masterplan for Balkan Rivers: Drawing a Line in the Sand

Produced by the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, this masterplan for the Balkan rivers defines river stretches of high ecological value in the region, including in Albania, and provides a spatial plan for their protection. It identifies “no-go” areas along important river stretches, where hydropower development would be damaging to extraordinary natural ecosystems.

The study provides prospective outcomes for the socio-economic development of the area, by comparing the increase of income and local welfare through hydropower installation on the one and the establishment of a National Natural Park on the other hand, over a period of 35 years, concluding that hydropower dams would have ‘a negative impact on the socio-economic, environmental and biological aspects of the area’, since they would cause a loss of employment in the agriculture-livestock sector and tourism – the area’s current mainstay.  

The analyses conclude that the Vjosa valley would benefit socio-economically by turning into a National Natural Park; as such, employment would be increased, while the generated income would reach the local communities. Especially solarpower, instead of hydropower, as a prospective energy source bears the potential of improving the infrastructure of the valley in line with the conservation of the valley’s assets.

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Mapping of environmental issues along the Albanian coast

Albania’s coastline stretches 316 km from Shkodra to Konispol and is the country’s most valuable asset, as well as being home to over 13% of the country’s human population. Economic, geopolitical and touristic development of the coastal belt is of strategic and national importance for the country.

However, the area suffers from a range of environmental issues. This study identifies thirty environmental issues within the five categories of: pollution from urban waste; marine and port pollution; coastal erosion; destruction of biodiversity; and challenges arising from development.

The study maps issues through research and with the participation of 40 stakeholders from the respective districts of Lezha, Durrës and Vlora, in the north, middle and south of Albania, including representatives of government agencies such as NAPA, NAE, NCA, NIPT, civil society organizations, experts and academics, and activists at the county level.

Priority environmental issues identified across the three regions include a lack of sanitary landfills, the advancement of the sea towards the land due to a lack of coastal vegetation, incidents of oil spills and other pollution in ports and at sea, illegal fishing activities and conflicts generated by the intensity of urban development along the coast.

In the region of Vlora, urban development and the extension of urban areas appears to be among the greatest problems. Durrës contains two of the most polluted rivers in the country, transporting contaminated urban water to the sea, and suffers from potential polluting activity at the Port of Durrës. Rapid population growth in the Lezha region, especially in the Drin and Mat River Delta, is putting increasing human pressure on the area’s rich diversity of ecosystems. Intensive and illegal fishing, coastal erosion and pollution in the Port of Shëngjin have been identified as the most acute environmental problems in the region.

The report also emphasizes the need for an institutional dialogue between the legislative,

executive and local governments in Albania to address these issues. A significant number of the identified problems require the better functioning of existing systems monitoring and controlling institutions at the local and central level, to address hydrocarbon pollution, pollution in ports and the dumping of ballast waters in ports.

Many issues require investment, improved consultation processes and review of the national network of Protected Areas along the coast. The environmental problems identified in this study should serve as an incentive for authorities as well as civil society organizations and foreign assistance programs to foster a wider technical debate to develop solution-based projects and prioritization in draft annual and medium-term local budgets.

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