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Communicate and find common ground

Apr 08, 2013 / zopemaster
Working across borders for the environment – Wolfgang Burhenne, founder member of CIPRA, and Andrea Matt, Executive Director of CIPRA Liechtenstein, talk about their activities as networkers.
Image caption:
© Caroline Begle/CIPRA International
Suddenly there was this border. What a nuisance! Before the war, Wolfgang Burhenne, who was born in 1924 and grew up in Garmisch, simply went shopping in Innsbruck – or climbing in Switzerland. His grandparents had a house on Lake Constance and went hunting in the Bregenzer Wald. Then things changed. The Nazis put him in Dachau for three years for helping prisoners. And after the war the fences were there again – in the mountains. “It was difficult to cross the border into Austria or Switzerland,” Wolfgang Burhenne remembers. In 1952 he was one of the initiators in the foundation of CIPRA in Rottach-Egern on Tegernsee and became its first unpaid Secretary General. Sixty years later on 5 May 2012, Wolfgang, now almost 90 years old, was again in Rottach-Egern to celebrate the organisation’s anniversary with latter-day representatives, fellow travellers and friends of CIPRA.
A different place, a different generation. Andrea Matt straightens her green skirt, pulls down the sleeves of her embroidered blouse and slips on a light grey woollen jacket. In this case the dress code is political – the 52-year-old Executive Director of CIPRA Liechtenstein is on her way to the annual general assembly of the Liechtenstein Hunters. It will be a critical meeting: she hopes to win the hunters over to CIPRA’s ideas. “The key to success is often to find partners who are not directly involved in environmental protection,” says Andrea. And appearances can make a difference. For meetings with the business community, she dons her black two-piece; at the general assembly of the Liechtenstein Society for Environmental Protection (LGU), of which she is also the Executive Director, she appears in jeans and Tshirt. For Andrea, the important thing is to communicate with people with the arguments that are important to them, find common ground and build networks that extend beyond linguistic and cultural borders.

Hunting for contacts
Two different personalities, the same mission – contacts are essential to get things moving. That is something that has not changed since the foundation of CIPRA. After the war, the US army of occupation attempted to dispossess the Bavarian landowners, who traditionally held the hunting rights on their own land. The Americans sought to recruit GIs with the prospect of “free fishing and hunting”. In protest against the policy of the military government, Wolfgang Burhenne resigned from his post at the Bavarian State Ministry of Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry and made contact with environmentalists in the USA. In 1948 he was involved as the first German representative in the foundation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN); it was thanks to him that Germany was able to become a member in 1950. Nor was it merely fortuitous that Charles Bernhard, the first President of the IUCN, also became the first President of CIPRA. That helped the organisation establish an international presence.
Developing strategies, forging battle plans, honing arguments and building up staying power in the pursuit of objectives – those are also things Andrea Matt learnt as a politician. From 2005 to 2009 she was a member of the Diet of Liechtenstein. Andrea takes a clear line, but with room for compromise. “I can only demand things that are feasible within the existing framework.” Wolfgang Burhenne has a similar rule of thumb: “You should not demand anything you cannot justify.”
Wolfgang Burhenne maintains that scientists used to think that when they came up with new findings, politicians would have to accept them automatically. But this is not the case. Scientific findings must first generate political conclusions. That is the role he sees for himself and for environmental organisations like CIPRA. After Wolfgang had helped draw up a new post-war hunting law in Bavaria – “which obviously was not what the Americans wanted” – the Bavarian Prime Minister invited him to collaborate on a federal law, too. That was the beginning of a long career in law-making. Wolfgang founded and chaired the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Law, represented the Alpine Convention within the IUCN, chaired the UN committee that drew up the World Charter for Nature, and proposed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and other international agreements.
Andrea Matt sees Wolfgang Burhenne as a role model. “He does what I would like to do most – help shape the legal framework.” Andrea, a designer with additional legal training, is convinced that European environmental law ensures high standards, that legislation today is primarily seen as a way of steering human behaviour, and that modern society is capable of agreeing through political discourse on a state that is seen as right and desirable. “To that extent, legal debate also helps us develop our system of values.”

Networking in thought and deed
Wolfgang Burhenne is less optimistic on that point. He feels that, in spite of today’s greater environmental awareness, the world has not really become a better place. Why not? “Because we are not becoming better people.” It worries Wolfgang to see the world becoming more crowded and pressure on the natural environment increasing. Andrea Matt, on the other hand, as a member of the new generation in positions of leadership and responsibility, also sees the opportunities: “Climate change is bringing us to the point where ecology is not just about preserving nature but about ensuring our own survival.”
This makes a cross-border approach essential. A meeting with colleagues from Austria or France gives the Executive Director of CIPRA Liechtenstein an opportunity to see what solutions they are working on. “That can be used as input for strategies which will also work in our part of the world.” That, she adds, is why CIPRA with its networks is so important. She feels what is so exciting about the Alps is that “we have a link, the shared living space of the Alps, where the challenges also have much in common – and very different people working together to shape our living space.” Bringing them together, Andrea concludes, is a task for multiple generations – and for CIPRA.

Barbara Wülser
CIPRA International

Designer and political architect
Andrea Matt, who was born in 1960, has worked for sustainable development in Liechtenstein and beyond for many years. At present she is Executive Director of both CIPRA Liechtenstein and the Liechtenstein Society for Environmental Protection. Before that she was a member of the Diet of Liechtenstein. The designer and scientific journalist equipped herself for her political work by studying women’s rights and environmental law.

Pioneer in environmental protection
Wolfgang Burhenne was born in 1924 and lost his father when he was only six. He was wounded in the war and spent three years in concentration and penal camps. He studied law, forestry and political science. In addition to his activities as Executive Director of the German Interparliamentary Working Group, he has always been committed to the cause of nature protection and environmentalism. He is an honorary member of CIPRA and in 2011 received the 3rd German Alpine Award from CIPRA Germany.

Source: Annual Report 2012 CIPRA International