Michael Dower

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Our wonderful friend, mentor and supporter, Michael Dower, sadly passed away on Monday November 7, 2022, just a week before his 89th birthday. In his lifetime, Michael was a force in European rural development. He was instrumental in developing the European Rural Parliament partnership and process, including co-ordinating and writing the foundational document ‘All Europe shall Live’, based on a survey of all of our European Partners, from which he developed the first ERP Manifesto at the 2nd ERP Gathering in Austria in 2015. These have remained our baseline documents.

In addition to the ERP, Michael’s work in rural development was extensive. He co-founded and served as coordinator of PREPARE - Pre-accession Partnership for Rural Europe, supporting the launch of many national and regional rural movements and rural parliaments in Central and Eastern Europe. He founded and served as President of ECOVAST – the European Council for the Village and Small Town. He co-founded and animated the European Agricultural Convention (EAC), now ARC2020. He was a very active member of Forum Synergies and many other European civic initiatives. He was co-creating the CURE - Convention for Urban and Rural Europe.

Prior to his post-retirement activism in European rural civil society, Michael managed the Peak District National Park in England; was Director General of the Countryside Commission for England and Wales; and was Professor of European Rural Development at the University of Gloucestershire. He edited and promoted the European Landscape Convention for the Council of Europe.

Michael was passionate about rural areas, their people, landscapes, land use and ecology. In the later years of his life, he worked tirelessly to advocate on the climate change emergency, and led local woodland management projects, working with school children, where he lived in Dorset, England.

Michael was, and is, an inspiration to us all. He urged us to be bold and brave and urgent in our work. His legacy lies within us and our continuing, collective work to support and develop rural Europe – our wonderful home.

Thank you Michael!

The ERP is doing advocacy for rual people, villages and communities.

1. Introduction:

ERP advocacy work is to give a voice for rural people, villages and communities. This is done by listening and compiling messages from its national and European partners and especially by collecting data from The ERP Gatherings, different events and national Rural Parliaments organised in European countries. The resulting data is compiled in advocacy documents (Manifesto, Declaration, policy papers) directed to national governments and EU policy makers. We look to find support from research results.

2. Gatherings

Gatherings: The main feature of the European Rural Parliament process is the biennial Gatherings (where around 300 people from 40 countries meet to discuss rural issues, policies and projects from a grassroot perspective in plenaries and workshops to prepare the messages - the rural voice for decision makers. The horizontal approach involving all sectors of rural development creates synergies and progress. Field visits and cultural activities are also core part of the events.

See the 4th ERP Gathering in Candás website and especially the news site to explore or live again the highlights of the event.
https://erp2019.eu/ https://erp2019.eu/news/

If you want to go deeper in details you´ll find the Gathering materials including workshops and visits reports here:

Youth organise themselves a parallel Gathering where rural youth express their concerns and solutions for future Rural Europe. See more!

3. Advocacy messages

ERP suggests working together in partnership for a “real” Rural Agenda for 2021-2027 recognising the critical importance of rural areas whilst opening the path for flexible, decentralised, territorial and place-based solutions where all stakeholders cooperate for the common good. Strategic, economic, environmental and social plans would take into account the variety of rural realities, even declining ones. We must be ready to better meet existing and upcoming challenges like ageing, social exclusion, immigration, exodus, digitisation, food security, environment and climate change. Green Deal will have big budget, but we don´t know in which scale it will benefit rural areas, or in the worst case if it creates new burdens without new resources. Digitisation will most probably have a substantial budget. Smart villages process don´t have a clear budget but there is a strong will to go forward. New technologies and faster connections bring opportunities, but these are and will be unequal in Europe.
Our main messages during the 2018-2019 ERP-process are

  • • A real rural agenda base on integrated, place-based development
  • • Strengthening LEADER and promoting CLLD also in relation to smart villages
  • • Include rural citizens as co-planners, co-implementors and co-evaluators in rural development
  • • Including rural in the programming and financing of the Green deal, smart villages and digitisation
  • • Pursue actively the relations, programmes and funding also with countries outside EU
  • • A growing partnership between ERP and EU-institutions

Please find below ERP main advocacy documents