This past week, the first Budapest Sustainability Exchange took place, launching a cross-sectoral and cross-party reflection on green cooperation between the V4
countries. The two-day conference attracted hundreds of participants both in-person and virtually via Livestream, creating a unique, interactive forum for dialogue. The Exchange marked the finale
to a series of events across the four countries, giving sustainability actors and young leaders the opportunity to discuss how and why the V4 must steer towards sustainability.
Equally, the Exchange signified the beginning of a new chapter for the organizing team, V4SDG - Visegrad for Sustainability. A collective network of young
professionals transforming regional sustainability affairs, V4SDG is now looking towards joint action and practical implementation of their aspirations for a V4 green
transformation. The event was opened by András Volom, President of V4SDG, and Olga Algayerova, UN Under-Secretary-General for Europe. They both warned
that while the pandemic is paradoxically diverting attention away from sustainability, there is a growing demand for urgent transition as our environmental, social and economic structures
deteriorate. "Sustainability cooperation and coordination should be included among the permanent priorities of the Visegrad Group." - remarked András Volom, reflecting on the fact that, although
the Polish Presidency Program for 2020/21 already includes a sustainability objective, full cooperation is not yet on the agenda.
The UN Under-Secretary-General for Europe noted that because of the challenges posed by the virus, “we need a stronger political commitment to the UN 2030 goals than ever before”. The opening speeches were followed by a dialogue with representatives of the V4 governments, who unanimously agreed that sustainability is one of the greatest challenges facing the region. They pointed out that because of their historical disadvantages, the countries of the group are facing more significant obstacles than their Western counterparts. In spite of these difficulties, the representatives agreed that the V4 lays a strong foundation for effective sustainability cooperation, both as an opportunity and a strategic interest.
Marek Niedużak, Deputy State Secretary for Sustainable Development, emphasized that "in the long run, we can only move forward in the global value chain if we build
a sustainable and environmentally responsible industry." Anna Paskova, Director of Sustainability at the Czech Ministry of the Environment, focused on eradicating poverty and halting climate
change, highlighting what the V4s have yet to build on: The Czech Republic is ranked as one of the ten most sustainable countries in the world, with other V4 members not far behind. The Hungarian
and Slovak parties drew attention to the fact that sustainability can only be achieved through continuous energy investment, a goal their governments are strongly committed to. The Budapest
Sustainability Exchange convened a diverse range of speakers and representatives of sustainability who contributed to thought-provoking debates and lively discussions. In addition to high-level
policy issues, the themes of climate anxiety, youth activism and sustainable living were discussed with the same attention as smart cities, circular economies, climate protection and financing
the green transition - along with their core V4 aspects.
Speakers included Irena Pichola, Deloitte's Head of Sustainability Consulting in Central Europe, Katka Cseh, Momentum MEP, János Pásztor, Director of the Carnegie
Climate Governance Initiative and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Climate Change, Radoslav Mizera, Solved Innovator Zsófia Rácz, Deputy State Secretary for Youth, Martin Hojsík, Progressive
Slovakia MEP, Zsófi Beck, Partner of the Boston Office of the Boston Consulting Group, Péter Balázs, Malgorzata Czachowska, an activist at Fridays for Future Silesia, Ámon Ada, Chief Climate
Advisor to the Mayor of Budapest, Father Augusto Zampini-Davies, Deputy State Secretary of the Apostolic See and Gábor Gyura, Head of the Sustainable Finance Department of the MNB.
With the challenges facing our region in mind, V4SDG announced the launch of an online platform, CONNECT, for sustainability professionals and institutions alike
access to a multi-stakeholder platform to strengthen regional partnerships, exchanging information and manage collaborations. Shaped by decision-makers, businesses, civil society, researchers and
young people, the CONNECT community also aims to break down sectoral and generational walls. The online platform is also home to the region’s first
workshop community of young sustainability professionals, V4SDG LAB. This fast-growing group, which already has more than 40 members, will contribute to V4 sustainability cooperation with its own
projects and intellectual products, first in the fields of education, European policy and circular transitions. The implementation of the Budapest
Sustainability Exchange was supported by the Visegrad Fund, the Climate Knowledge Innovation Community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, the Human Resources Support Manager
V4SDG (Visegrad for Sustainability) was founded in 2018 by four young people with the aim of cultivating the Visegrad Four as sustainability leaders. The organization is currently working with 30 permanent volunteers to gather, network and strengthen V4 sustainability actors so that they can later effectively channel them into international processes. In addition to the four original countries, V4SDG is present in Brussels, the center of the European Union, and plans to extend its activities to other countries in Eastern Europe.