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The Tisza River Development Program
First Working Group Meeting

4 Rue du Trone; 1000 Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2006

The Tisza River Development Program - Background

The Tisza Development Program is initiated by IHLET, a non-profit Research Center of Social, Environmental and Economic Matters, established vis-a-vis the Regional Environmental Technology Center (RETC) in 1998. IHLET's Tisza Development Program is a cross-border initiative, embracing five countries (Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine - see chart 1 below) along the Tisza River. The target area of this regional cooperation is 154.039 km2, with a population of approximately 15.7 million.

Chart 1.

The Program's primary goal is to develop the Tisza Watershed from three perspectives:

  • Environmental protection
  • Economic development
  • Social development

This holistic development policy approach reflects the essence of the Johannesburg Declaration whereas only considering these pillars as inseparable can sustainable development be achieved.

A regional cross-border cooperation along the Tisza Watershed is especially important in light of the more frequent and severe floods, and recent cyanide poisonings and other water quality incidents. The Tisza Watershed area is also the place with several communities living in extreme poverty, the majority of them of Roma origin. Also, in general, this area is economically declining or stagnating, not attracting significant investment and trade opportunities.

The Tisza Development Program (TDP) builds on a network of local governments and civil society organizations, including business enterprises and research institutes, attempts to address these issues by creating a cross-border spatial data infrastructure for the Tisza Basin. 80% of data used in public administration is directly or indirectly spatial in nature, e. g. addresses, real property ownership registration numbers, regulatory zones, neighbourhood, use of public areas, etc. A harmonised and co-operative utilisation and exchange of such data, using the network of IHLET, could increase the efficiency and, thus the impact of managing environmental, social and economic problems.

The Program, thus, aims at establishing an environmental and flood protection system, building on a unified and harmonized watershed management. This will include the development of a cohesive environmental monitoring system, able to respond to special local requirements and needs, and to take on an essential prevention role, providing timely warnings and action plans.

The Program will also set up the social cadastre of the affected cross-border area, identifying the most impoverished settlements, those that offer unhealthy living conditions. The Roma is the most affected social group (see chart 2 below) in the area, requiring supportive social policies and employment generation. It is essential for the respective local governments, as well as national and international development agencies to get access to an unbiased and reliable source of information or a database, defining the settlements and geographical areas that need attention.

Chart 2: Spatial Distribution of Roma in the Tisza Watershed

Finally, in order to achieve long term and thus, sustainable development, the region's ability to attract investment and promote trade is of primary importance. The Program will assemble, synchronize and collate spatial data that could become useful and valuable for investors, even foreign ones. A systemic database offers possibilities for different types of analysis, necessary to launch economic activities. This component of the Program will also have a positive impact on labor market analysis and actual employment generation.

As you can see, this is a truly cross-border cooperation project, with 48 offices in five countries (see chart 3 below). It builds on the network of local governments and other local players, creating synergies and launching common actions among the five affected countries. TDP uses local government funds and those gained through the economic development component. These funds will then get re-channeled into the social and environmental components.

Chart 3: The Distribution of the 48 Offices/End Points of IHLET/TDP

An international Charta (see Draft Text of the CHARTA below), laying down the principles of the program and the involvement of the different players, is expected to be signed by the respective Ministers or Prime Ministers of the five affected countries, representatives of the involved international financial institutions, the 48 local offices, and other founding partners. The Charta will be signed during a high-level ceremony potentially in Hungary, around end of September 2006.

Draft Text of the CHARTA

"The Tisza River Development Program is supported by local authorities, business enterprises and research institutes who create, maintain or utilise geo-databases. By signing the Charta, these organizations and individuals declare their intention to actively participate in the establishment of the conditions necessary for the creation of a cross-border spatial database infrastructure for the Tisza Basin. They undertake tasks regarding the optimization of services and the creation of user-friendly electronic access to these geo-databases.

The database to be established will have a positive impact on the sustainable development of the Tisza Basin. It supports the management of environmental, economic and social issues.

We commonly define what is considered as "settlements not meeting the basic social requirements" and the criteria for their cadastre-based application. Such work contributes to the social inclusion of, principally Roma, communities of the affected regions, in addition to the gradual and planned elimination of these settlements.

Our objective is to further develop the electronic cooperation of the region, improve the international quality of the service, and facilitate access to the services provided by the respective countries.

We use the EU standards recognized in data processing and the modeling of geo-databases. We also strive for system-neutral data transfer. We support the integrated electronic cooperation among different public administration agencies, as well as the business sphere and the civil society.

The Tisza Development Program is an opportunity to start from a focus on river basin environmental management to build human, technical, and organizational capacity and eventually, move towards a comprehensive spatial strategy for the Tisza Basin."