Port of Call
Kotor, Montenegro: Economics and environmentalism in a World Heritage city, May 7, 2014
The old city with its cobbled streets and age-old fortifications is wedged between the ?black mountains' giving Montenegro its name and the pristine turquoise waters of the Bay of Kotor.
As a World Heritage city, Kotor has a rich culture that dates back thousands of years. The old fort walls still cast a strong presence amidst the beauty of the ancient fjords that majestically weave their way through the region. The cobbled stone streets and black mountains that surround Kotor, giving Montenegro its name, further add to the allure and mystery of this very special place.

The 83rd Global Voyage marked Peace Boat's first visit to the country of Montenegro, which declared its independence in 2006. This was a much anticipated opportunity to connect with local civil society and learn about not only the country's past but also current issues including environmental pressures. The visit was realized in cooperation with Ivana Gajovic and the Nansen Dialogue Centre Montenegro - Regional Secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) Western Balkans, with which Peace Boat works closely as the counterpart Regional Secretariat for GPPAC Northeast Asia. Through introductions by the Nansen Dialogue Centre, a variety of study and exchange programmes were held during this first visit to the country.

Peace Boat participants and local high school students plant trees in the city as a symbol of a greener and more ecologically friendly Kotor.
As a self-proclaimed ecological state, Montenegro has significant biodiversity and natural beauty that is currently jeopardized through over-development and other anthropogenic threats. To learn more about this situation and local efforts to overcome such challenges, Peace Boat met with two non-governmental organisations focusing on the environment, Eco Centre Delfin and Nasa akcija (Our Action). Both organisations were launched in Kotor, and are working towards ensuring long-term sustainability of the environment, as well as of the livelihoods of people who rely on it to make a living. Peace Boat participants joined local high school students and members of the two partner NGOs for a beach and park clean up as well as the planting trees around the city. While inclement weather conditions made it difficult to plant the full planned fifty trees, participants braved the elements and six trees were planted as a symbolic gesture representing continued protection of the city's ecology, and the hopefully long to continue collaboration with Peace Boat.

After the planting, participants boarded a boat to travel around the bay's fjords and learn about the natural and environmental history of Kotor, whilst further interacting with the high school students. Kachi Yoshinori, a Peace Boat participant who is also a turtle researcher in Japan, explained that "I was interested in the environmental issues. As a researcher I know a lot about the environmental situation in Japan, but my knowledge about outside Japan is limited. I thought that I could contribute to what they are doing in Kotor with the work that I am doing in Japan. I took part in this programme to form a lasting relationship so that perhaps in the future we could work together in our respective countries".

Peace Boat participants joined environmental activities with local high school students and members of partner organisations Eco Centre Delfin and Our Action.
During the tour of the harbour, local partners and Peace Boat participants exchanged cultures and traditions. As well as sharing origami folding and learning traditional Japanese games and songs, the visitors from Peace Boat had an opportunity to learn about Montenegrin culture and tradition. The visit coincided with Easter Sunday, in a year when both the Catholic and Orthodox Easter happened to occur on the same day. An important day in Montenegro, the group together also made traditional Easter presents and decorated hard-boiled eggs, which they then cracked open by smashing two together.

Kotor was World Heritage listed by UNESCO after a catastrophic earthquake shook the area in 1979. The listing incorporates all aquatic regions both within and surrounding the city, as well as the mountains and buildings within the municipality. "Kotor alone houses over 60% of all of the cultural relics, artifacts and historical buildings in Montenegro", explained Ljiljan Radulodovic, the founder and director of NGO Eco Centre Delfin. Eco Delfin was formed 15 years ago in response to the "lack of action from our government and big businesses in ensuring that Montenegro is an ecologically focused state rather than just stating that we are. We are not very happy with the upkeep and protection of our environment and what is being done about it, but we are hopeful that the future will bring changes and positive sustainable development in this area", explained Ljiljan.

Eco Delfin first focused on small-scale educational initiatives focusing on instilling a strong connection to the intrinsic value of Montenegro's rich environment. "From humble beginnings in Kotor, we now run programmes on a regional and national scale, as well as some projects within Bosnia-Herzegovnia. We work with schools, businesses and government to effect change and ensure a sustainable future for Montenegro." From primarily educational programmes, Eco Delfin now focuses heavily on waste and water management, providing training, facilities, technical support and human resource support to ensure that best practice is achieved. "We are also working on a green waste recycling system, to separate organic waste and educate the community on how important this is environmentally. It's not only the environment that benefits, through separating and recycling waste communities can also profit through its sale. In the end everyone benefits from recycling."

Our Action inspires communities and individuals to become active within society. As part of the cultural exchange in Kotor, participants and locals played games together, sang songs and taught each other more about their respective cultures on a cruise around the bay.
The NGO Nasa akcija (Our Action) was formed in 2011, and aims to "inspire citizens to be 'active' within the community." Our Action inspires Montenegrins to, "WAKE UP and become conscious of the choices that they make in their day-to-day lives", explained Patricia Pobric, the founder of the organisation. "The Balkan wars and the economic situation that followed pressured citizens into inaction. Through more than 200 social, environmental and humanitarian projects each year we aim to reactivate the community and encourage participation." As good friends running partner NGOs, Ljiljan and Patricia have high hopes for Kotor and for Montenegro. "With such a small country that is home to so many wonderful attributes, our potential is limitless. We must change our political development and address the people and what they want. We need to pay attention to their vision, rather than the vision of big corporations", added Patricia.

Peace Boat participants farewell the city of Kotor.
These two inspiring women have created big changes in Montenegro and their dedication and hard work will continue long into the future. Many school students in Kotor are actively involved with the two NGOs, balancing their studies with working towards a more sustainable future for their country. "The presentations on the NGOs and the interaction with the local children who will be the future of Kotor were the highlight of the programme for me. I wish that I could have done more to help the situation and I hope that in the future I can get more involved," explained Yoshi.

"We really thank Peace Boat for coming at to Montenegro at this time. At present we are not only faced with daunting environmental issues but also with the reality of joining a military alliance with NATO. We don't want further war and we don't need a military presence in our country. Peace Boat has sent a timely reminder to us that peace is the future and the future that we want as Montenegrins. If we all stand together for peace around the world, then I believe that it's achievable. We need to first be at peace with nature if we are to be at peace with ourselves, and this is what we are promoting through our respective organisations". Peace Boat's first visit to Montenegro has paved the road forward towards a long and prosperous relationship with the local community, including the NGOs Eco Centre Delfin and Our Action. In the future we hope to continue working towards the realisation of a truly unique ecological state where the natural environment and the community support each other and the long-term future of this rich and diverse country.