By Avigayil Kadesh
Thirty senior government officials, NGO heads and private-sector executives from 20 countries came to Israel this past summer to share ideas on how to grow national economies without depleting natural resources. They were hosted by MASHAV
, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The month-long course, “Green Economy – Policy Measures and Implementation of Green Growth,” was held at the Weitz Center for Development Studies
, one of the MASHAV extension centers in Rehovot, and was co-sponsored by the World Bank Institute, the United Nations Environment Program and UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.
Ilan Fluss, Director of Policy Planning and External Relations in MASHAV, explains that it is Israel’s obligation to share its knowhow, experience and expertise with developing countries around the word in order to help them in their efforts to eradicate poverty, hunger and other development challenges. “We do it by inviting decision-makers and professionals from developing countries for training programs and visits to Israel or by sending our experts to train people or implement projects in those countries in need. We work with them to develop appropriate solutions according to their local needs and challenges,” says Fluss.
Weitz Managing Director Adi Dishon says the course offered a unique opportunity for policy-makers from Africa, Southeast Asia, China, India, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, and Central and Eastern Europe to reap the benefits of Israel’s experience, and each other’s, regarding sustainable development.
“Their disciplines are diverse because that’s the whole point of green economy,” Dishon says. “The recent rebranding of environmental issues means expanding the discussion from environmental officials to those involved in economics and infrastructure.”
Green Economy, taught in English from July 22 to August 15, 2013, was offered at the request of the United Nations, says Daniel Meron, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Division for the United Nations and International Organizations.
It comes down to empowerment
“Israel sees itself as an important player in promoting sustainability, especially water-tech and agro-tech, and has been recognized as a ‘superpower of sustainability’ by UN leaders,” Meron says. “We also are very involved in putting together the UN’s new SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals].”
Participants attended lectures and on-site conferences, and met with Israeli policy-makers and experts in relevant areas.
“Throughout the course, we touched upon many aspects of developing a sustainable green economy, including innovative tools for agriculture and water management, cutting-edge renewable energy technology, green building, sustainable waste management, eco-tourism, corporate social responsibility, and the utilization of green projects to engage all members of society,” says Weitz Program Officer Jeremy Ben-Shalom.
UNIDO sent a speaker to talk about clean production, and the World Bank contributed an e-learning course and a mentoring session on green economy. Also included were lessons on public speaking and personal career development.
“When you combine that with seeing how Bedouin settlements provide for the basic needs of water, energy and waste, and then meeting with the mayor of Ra’anana and hearing how it strives to be a sustainable city -- everything links together and comes down to empowerment,” says Ben-Shalom.
“The whole goal was to empower the people, and in Israel, with our diverse multicultural population, we feel we have something unique to offer and share with other countries.”
More mouths to feed
Creating a shift towards a “green economy” entails promoting simultaneous investments in new sectors and technologies as well as in human capital to increase environmental knowledge and management.
“The previous economic assumption was that economic growth goes along with a decrease in natural resources such as oil -- two graphs with a negative correlation,” explains Dishon.
“Now the world is trying to achieve a decoupling of these trend lines, so we can have continued economic growth while keeping resources constant. We have more mouths to feed in the world, but we have to do this with the same quantity of natural resources: fertilizers, land, water, energy.”
The group picked tomatoes with Leket Israel,
the country’s largest food rescue network.
Israel’s own green growth strategy (“GG Plan”) for the years 2012 to 2023 was approved in October 2011 and aims to use past and future Israeli advances to formulate green licensing policies, knowledge centers of green growth, green procurement tenders, grants and assistance to green industrial plants, green training for employment and support for eco-innovation.
Meron points out that Israel is the world’s leader in water re-use, recycling and desalination, and has considerable innovation in forestry and renewable energy. His Facebook page
, Green Israel, which brings the latest news from Israel on green technologies and sustainable development, has close to 5,000 followers around the world.
“We are sharing our expertise,” says Meron. “One of the participants told me that he goes to many places in the world where people try to teach them, but this is the first country that is sharing rather than teaching. He appreciated that.”
“Green growth is a rather new topic and agenda in the world,” says Dishon. “At Weitz, we try to introduce new topics because the developing world needs to keep up with trends as they confront their development challenges.”
Participants were chosen by MASHAV, with the help and coordination of Israel’s embassies, through a screening process five months in advance of the course. More than 100 applications were received, while MASHAV assumed the cost of the training.
Fluss added that the sharing doesn’t end when everyone goes home. MASHAV believes in long-term partnerships and continues to support graduates of its programs.
“At Weitz, we are in constant contact with alumni and try to team them up with Israeli companies and knowhow in order to develop projects together,” Dishon says. “We also work through social networks, and have an LED -- local economic development -- platform to organize alumni to share their experiences with each other by uploading a clip of a TED-style talk.”
Since 1958, MASHAV has initiated partnerships and implemented development cooperation programs in more than 130 countries and given training to over 275,000 professionals from around the world. The issues and topics change over time. “Today we are dealing with global issues such as climate change, sustainable development, food security, innovation, women empowerment and green growth,” says Fluss, “but we discuss them in a very pragmatic way, searching for real solutions.”
The alumni of MASHAV courses are organized within their countries in Shalom Clubs, where they can get together in their home countries for follow-up sessions and implement activities and initiatives to benefit the community.