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Exporting Environmental Protection

December 1993

Citation: 23 ELR 10701

Issue: 12

Author: Ruth Greenspan Bell

To help create a working system of environmental regulation and enforcement in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union ("the region"), those engaged in U.S. environmental assistance efforts must be sensitive to the institutional and cultural realities of the region. Most governments there have little experience in effective environmental protection, despite the long-standing existence of laws and some formal institutions which address environmental issues. For most of these countries, environmental protection has a relatively low priority compared to pressing economic demands.1 Additionally, although the experience gained in building environmental protection and enforcement institutions in the United States has much to offer the region, efforts to transplant concepts and institutions that have worked in the United States cannot succeed without consideration of the unique culture, experiences, and perceptions of the people of the region.

Conditions that have provided fertile ground for environmental protection in the United States include cultural attitudes shaped by affluence, established free market institutions, heavily developed communication and other infrastructures, private industry sectors that seek profits from managing pollution and waste disposal, and industries that have learned to incorporate environmental considerations into their businesses. Such advantages are rare in Central and Eastern Europe and are largely absent in the former Soviet Union. Environmental professionals participating in U.S. assistance efforts, however, sometimes fail to notice this difference2 or to consider how it affects public acceptance of environmental programs.3

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