Michael Dower

WhatsApp Image 2022 11 10 at 16.18.42

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 First European Rural Parliament was held in Brussels on 13 November 2013.

The concept of a European Rural Parliament builds on a tradition of national rural parliaments, developed first in Sweden and now found in a growing number of European countries.

It was a joint initiative of the European Rural Community Alliance (ERCA) and PREPARE Partnership for Rural Europe. It was managed by Hela Sverige ska leva (HSSL), the Swedish rural movement, which first pioneered the idea of national rural parliaments. The event was kindly hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).  It was attended by 140 people from 30 countries representing 70 organisations and 13 pan-European networks, as well as policy makers at national and European levels.

The goal of the First European Rural Parliament was to provide a common voice for rural people and to strengthen the rural movement in Europe.   The aims were to:

  • create a common statement that affects European rural policy
  • improve the dialogue between policy makers and the local level
  • exchange experiences of successful local development
  • find a form of European Rural Parliament that would live on and be continued across Europe.

Preparation for the Rural Parliament began many months before the event, by collecting issues and ideas from rural people across Europe.  These were brought together and analysed to identify the main proposals for discussion at the big event.  In a parallel process, a “Think Tank” of experts collated methods and local experiences from Europe’s rural developers. The results were compiled to identify the key success factors for local development and strategic planning and to facilitate the exchange of experience on rural development.  The results of both these processes were presented at the Rural Parliament. 

The Rural Parliament presented the rural movements as significant players at a European level, part of civil society and of the social economy, contributing to local development.   It also strengthened links between the rural actors and movements across Europe, and raised the key issues affecting rural areas across Europe, with ideas and proposals for action and policy.  The participants agreed that the initiative should continue, in order to strengthen the voice of rural Europe.  The results are documented in the Report and Statement, which can be found in the Library part of this Website.  

Links to associated documents:

ERP2013 - report (PDF)

ERP2013 – Statement