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 climax of the 2013-15 Campaign was the 2nd  European Rural Parliament, held in the beautiful small town of Schärding in Upper Austria in the first week of November 2015.  This three-day event was hosted by Regionsverband Sauwald-Pramtal and organised by the ERP Co-ordinators in co-operation with Thomas Müller and his colleagues of Projects4.  It was attended by 240 people from 40 European countries, plus other leading rural organisations and invited representatives of the European institutions.   It included one day of study tours in the regions surrounding the venue, followed by two days of workshops and plenary sessions.  The event was made possible by funding from the EC Europe for Citizens programme and generous co-funding from the governments of Austria and Upper Austria, plus significant help in kind from Schärding County Council, Schärding Town Council, Local Action Groups in Upper Austria, the staff and students of Schärding secondary school, and the organisations who hosted study tours.  The venues in Schärding included the handsome Kubin Hall; meeting rooms in many parts of the town; and a large marquee set up the Town Square, which made this European Gathering highly visible to the citizens of the town.

The Second European Rural Parliament culminated in the adoption – after long debate – of the European Rural Manifesto, with its forceful conclusions aimed at rural communities and governments throughout Europe and at European Institutions.  The Manifesto was immediately circulated to the media and the European institutions.  During the following weeks, it was translated into 27 European languages, and has been used by national partners for circulation within their countries and for advocacy to their governments.  ERCA, PREPARE and ELARD – all of which have seats in the Civil Dialogue Group which advises the European Commission on its policies for agriculture and rural development, and on the Rural Networks Assembly which guides the work of the European Network for Rural Development – have used the outputs of ERP 2015 in their subsequent networking, advocacy and other activities.  The Manifesto has formed the agenda and the starting-point for the 2016-17 campaign, leading up to the Third European Rural Parliament.

All reports, programme and photos can be found in the Library

Links to associated documents:

All Europe shall live (PDF)

European Rural Manifesto – 2015 (PDF)

Link to our sponsor:


Twitter Account 2015