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The Annual Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Meeting in Baku

The annual Central and Eastern Europe Regional (CEE) Meeting of oikos was organized and executed from the oikos chapter in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2017. It was held from September 7-10, 2017 under the topic of “Leadership in Sustainable Urbanization”, and was visited from members of other regions (for example, Northern Europe, Germany, and Iraq).

The meeting started in the afternoon of September 7th with a tour of Baku to get a feeling of the city’s atmosphere. It was held in a “treasure hunt” game-like fashion to increase the thrill. We saw the İçəri Şəhər, as the old city of Baku is called, the famous flame towers, and finished the tour at a viewing platform. After that, we had a vegetarian dinner—all the meals provided during the meeting were vegetarian—and went to a one-actor theatre performance at the ADO Theatre. The performance was about a human being’s impact in the world, accompanied by both Azerbaijani and international music. The main message of the performance was about plastic waste and the actor presented it in a very impressive and expressive way: the audience was left particularly moved and rendered thoughtful about their own impact on the environment.

On the 8th of September, we started with an opening ceremony, consisting of keynotes from Arzu Ahmadova (project manager of the CEE Meeting), Nurlan Jahangirli (president of oikos Baku), and Levani Pangani (president of oikos International). Three external speakers also presented at the event: Samir Gadirov, founder of the Green Baku initiative, who also likes riding bicycles and organizes respective tours throughout the Baku region; Orkhan Rajabov, leader of the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Department at Ernst&Young Azerbaijan; and Fuad Bagirov, CEO of Green Building Council Azerbaijan. Two parallel workshops were held during the day, intermitted by lunch and coffee breaks. Samir Gadirov talked about sustainable transportation in his workshop, while Fuad Bagirov led a workshop about the necessary harmony of social, economic and environmental development for the transition to a sustainable society. The day was completed by an expert talk about sustainable urbanization by Zulala Abdulazizova and her colleagues from Ernst&Young, also part of the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Department.

The 9th of September in Baku began with presentations and a panel discussion by the following speakers: Dr. Anar Valiyev, associate professor at the ADA University, Fuad Bagirov, who led a workshop on the day previous day, and Muslum Imranli, cofounder of PILLƏ, an architectural organization that works with sustainable architecture. Again, workshops followed; this time held by Dr. Anar Valiyev who addressed topics regarding urban sprawl, and by Fuad Jafarli, head of Urban Initiative Azerbaijan, who presented first a theoretical section, followed by a second, more practical and project-based section. The day finished with a closing and gratitude ceremony, and then a farewell party at night.

On the 10th of September, the grand finale of the 2017 oikos CEE meeting was an excursion to the paper recycling facility of Azersun Holding, the first recycling corporation in Azerbaijan. Besides the unique smell, it was very interesting to see how sustainability actually works in practice. The question of course remains if the amount of paper we use these days can even be sustainable and how recycling can contribute to a transition to a sustainable society.