Dr. Heino Meessen

Senior Research Scientist

Sustainability Governance Impact Area

+41 31 684 30 59
Dr. Heino Meessen
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)
Universität Bern
Mittelstrasse 43
CH-3012 Bern

Areas of professional focus at CDE

  • Management of multidisciplinary and multinational teams; specifically for transition countries of Eastern Europe – lingua franca Russian
  • Conduction of natural resource baseline research and of socio-economical analytical research
  • Design of inter- and trans-disciplinary research projects: Focus on mountain areas, natural resource management and rural transition context
  • Formulation of detailed work plans for project management in direct communication and moderation with Eastern European colleagues
  • Design and establishment of information networks and web-based platforms
  • Ability to communicate interdisciplinary research findings not only in comprehensive reports but also to apply to planning practice and for implementation of on-side projects


  • Technical assistance for the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Georgia. Project finding mission for GIZ.
  • Environmental Legislation and Environmental Monitoring in the Republic of Georgia
  • Environmental Impact Assessment in the Republic of Georgia. Legal and technical advice to Parliament and Ministry of Environment
  • Nature Conservation and Landscape Planning in Georgia
  • Environmental partnership programme Hanover – Perm (Russia). Comparative Evaluation of waste incineration and disposal.
  • Elaboration of a waste management conception for a landfill clean up in the city of Tula (Russia)
  • Energy conception for the city of Lviv (Ukraine)
  • State of the environment in CIS, a reader on strategies for on-site work in rural regions. Comparative research project on natural resource management under former soviet and economy in transition conditions
  • Mountain development, nature conservation,  biodiversity conservation oriented on Sustainable Land Management in Central Asian countries
  • Nature conservation and sustainable regional development
  • Biodiversity and protected area management 
  • Energy efficiency in rural regions of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
  • Participatory village development planning in Caucasus (in cooperation with REC networks / German Ministry of Environment)


  • Bulgaria: Evaluations of SDC’s biodiversity and SMNR programmes
  • Caucasus-South region: Several projects in FDFA/EDA  “Environment and Security” domain
  • Russia: SCOPES - Caucasus Mountain development programme
  • Slovakia and Poland: Management of Large Protected Areas, Sustainable Regional Development and Local Participation, for Swiss Contribution programme to the New Member States of the EU
  • Georgia, Ukraine and other CIS countries: Women in Europe for a  Common Future (WECF – international NGO): Elaboration and introduction of a participatory training module on improving the well-being of women and men in rural communities through energy efficient and solar technologies
  • Ukraine: Energy efficiency and Wood Energy in the Ukrainian Carpathians (Lviv and Zakarpatie Oblist)
  • Caucasus-South: Sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) and impact on migration of local residents
  • Caucasus-South: SMNR and conflict mediation: Focus on break-away regions in transition countries of the former Soviet Union
  • Caucasus-South: Field Study Courses for University Education – an action research approach for Early Stage Researchers
  • Real World Labs: Didactics in Field Studies on SMNR

Further professional interests

Heino Meessen – a personal insight in his engagement on “Cooperation with countries in transition of the post-socialistic “East”

FOCI: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and environmental protection domains

Heino Meessen holds a PhD in landscape ecology. His work has mainly focused on transition processes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He has been working at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland, for the past 20 years. Before that, he spent 15 years working for various international NGOs based on his educational background in nature conservation.

As a senior researcher at CDE, Heino Meessen specializes in applied research on e.g. decentralized energy efficiency, sustainable regional development in rural and mountain areas, waste management, sustainable tourism, environmental impact assessment, and other topics -  always in the context of practical projects. Methodologically his work is focused on action research and for the university education domain on instruments and applied tools for transdisciplinary approaches in teaching and research. Another focus – coming from his primary education as an landscape ecologist – is  nature conservation and management of large protected areas. His main concern is how to link conservation to benefits for the people living in and around large protected areas and encourage their participation in conservation management. Since 1986 Heino Meessen has published a broad range of work on nature conservation and participatory management of protected areas.

Through his projects, Heino Meessen has learned to work with local people, building on local expertise and systematically considering the needs – beyond conservation – of regions hosting large protected areas. He has done action research on sustainable development in rural and mountain regions and supported the implementation of locally driven pilot projects, for example the introduction of eco-toilets (Georgia), improvement of water supply (Azerbaijan), and development of mountain hiking routes (Bulgaria and Switzerland).

Village-level cooperation across national borders is another major focus of Heino Meessen’s work at CDE. This includes aspects of conflict transformation through village alliances in all Central Asian countries, e.g.  Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. He has also worked to promote transboundary management of large protected areas as “peace parks”, e.g. between Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Russia.

Heino Meessen has successfully worked within various large-scale and long-term development cooperation projects funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, GIZ, the World Bank, GEF, the EU, research funders such as the Swiss National Science Foundation, and other national and international donors. Within the Swiss contribution to the new member states of the EU and other international programmes, Heino Meessen worked in projects on large protected area management and local participation in the border region of Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

In his heart, Heino Meessen has remained a conservationist. He consciously appreciates the “ecosystem services” that nature provides for humankind – be it spirituality, physical and mental health, or tourism and recreation. In his leisure time he enjoys mountain hiking, backcountry skiing, and wind surfing. He is fluent in English, Russian, and of course his native language, German.

Field experience

Bulgaria, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany


German, Russian, Ukrainian, English, Bulgarian

Jump to: 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2008 | 2007


Gargallo, Eduard; Haller, Tobias; Chatty, Dawn; Weissman, Samuel; Meessen, Heino; Giger, Markus; Maisuradze, Roman; Iashvili, Nikoloz; Chkhobadze, Nino (2022). The new green grabbing frontier and participation. Conserving drylands with or without people. In: Kronenburg García, Angela; Haller, Tobias; van Dijk, Han; Samimi, Cyrus; Warner, Jeroen (eds.) Drylands Facing Change. Interventions, Investments and Identities. Routledge


Jungmeier, Michael; Rist, Stephan; Tribaldos, Theresa; Kirchmeir, Hanns; Liechti, Karina; Lochmatter, Alessandra; Meessen, Heino; Auinger, Monika; Schmalzl, Lilia; Plassmann, Guido (2021). Governing mountain commons between tradition and innovation. In: III World Higher Education Conference. Barcelona, Spain. 18-20 May 2022.


Soloviy, Ihor; Melnykovych, Mariana; Björnsen Gurung, Astrid; Hewitt, Richard J.; Ustych, Radmila; Maksymiv, Lyudmyla; Brang, Peter; Meessen, Heino; Kaflyk, Mariia (2019). Innovation in the use of wood energy in the Ukrainian Carpathians: Opportunities and threats for rural communities. Forest policy and economics, 104, pp. 160-169. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.forpol.2019.05.001


Meessen, Heino (2018). On the Way to an Energy Independent Community [Movie]. In: Video Contribution of Meessen, H. in local video setting and coordination in Boryslav/ Ukraine: Participatory Video.


Kohler, Thomas; Elizbarashvili, Nodar; Meladze, Giorgi; Svanadze, Davit; Meessen, Heino (2017). The demogeographic crisis in Racha, Georgia: Depopulation in the central caucasus mountains. Mountain Research and Development, 37(4), pp. 415-424. International Mountain Society 10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-17-00064.1


Meessen, Heino; Švajda, Juraj; Kohler, Thomas; Fabriciusová, Vladimira; Galvánek, Dobromil; Bural, Miroslav; Káčerová, Marcela; Kadlečík, Jan (2016). Protected areas in the Slovak Carpathians as a contested resource between metropolitan and mountain stakeholders: On the road to local participation. Revue de géographie alpine/Journal of alpine research, 103(103-3) Association pour la diffusion de la recherche alpine 10.4000/rga.3055


Meessen, Heino; Giger, Markus; Baibagyshov, Ermek (2013). Energiesparen in Kirgistan: effiziente Öfen und Wärmeisolation für die Landbevölkerung. Zentralasien-Analysen, 66, pp. 2-9. Dt. Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde / Forschungsstelle Osteuropa


Bachmann, Felicitas; Meessen, Heino (2012). Opportunities for women and men in rural regions/communities to improve their well-being through energy efficient and solar technologies (L4S module on energy efficiency) Bern: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

Gracheva, Raisa; Kohler, Thomas; Meessen, Heino (2012). Transformation of human-environment systems in the rural mountain regions of the Caucasus (Russia and Georgia). In: International Conference on Research for Development, 20.-22.8.2012, Bern, Switzerland. Bern: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)


Meessen, Heino; Koroleva, Nina (2011). Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in Central Asia- Capacity Development in the countries of Central Asia and Azerbaijan. In: Meeting of Parties ESPOO convention UNECE Geneva Palais de Nation. Geneva, Switzerland. 22. June 2011.


Gracheva, Raisa; Meessen, Heino; Kohler, Thomas; Nefedova, Tatjana (2008). Mountain Communities of North Caucasus: Disappearance or New Stage of Development? In: International Conference on Research for Development (ICRD 2008). Pre-conference Proceedings University of Bern, Switzerland, 2-4 July 2008. NCCR North-South Dialogue: Vol. 21 (p. 81). Bern: CDE / NCCR North-South


Giger, Markus; Meessen, Heino; Boteva, Dimitrina; Yordanov, Nikola (2007). Capitalisation of Experiences of the Swiss Support to Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) in Bulgaria Bern, Switzerland: Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)