2001 volume 33(4) pages 589 – 606
doi:10.1068/a3390

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Fagin A, 2001, "Environmental capacity building in the Czech Republic" Environment and Planning A 33(4) 589 – 606

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Environmental capacity building in the Czech Republic

Adam Fagin

Received 21 June 2000; in revised form 30 September 2000

Abstract. The damaged state of the environment in what was Czechoslovakia seemed to symbolise all that was at fault with the Soviet political, social, and economic model. In response to increased domestic and international concern about levels of pollution, plus the fact that the new government included former dissidents who had been involved in the clandestine environmental movement prior to the revolution, the environment was identified as a key priority in 1990. The tenth anniversary of the collapse of communist rule provided an appropriate point at which to assess the progress made and to consider the development of environmental capacity in the Czech Republic. Although I broadly adopt the conceptual framework of 'environmental capacity building' in this paper, I also argue that any assessment of environmental policy must focus primarily on the underlying processes of political, social, and economic reform that, in conjunction, continue to shape environmental policy and strategies. Thus, the objective here is to consider the impact of economic reform on the environment, how a decade of political reform has affected environmental nongovernmental organisations, and what has been the actual result of external aid and assistance. Two overriding points emerge from the discussion. First, much of the improvement in levels of pollution is in fact attributable to the decline in manufacturing output rather than conservation measures or large-scale restructuring. Second, the strengthening of environmental capacity is inextricably linked to the complex process of democratic consolidation and is thus constrained not just by the legacies of communist rule, but by the evolving relationship between society, the global economy, and the state.

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