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!

Co-initiators of the European Rural Parliament:

The European Rural Parliament campaign is jointly initiated by the three networks shown below.

European Rural Community Alliance (ERCA)

ERCA is the network for the national and regional rural and village movements of Europe. It supports the rural communities of Europe, through their national and regional rural movements, to develop connections, share experience and mutual learning, and take collective action to strengthen their position.

ERCA began as an informal network in 2004, and was established as an organisation in 2009. In 2013 the two networks European Rural Community Association and European Rural alliance merged under the new name European Rural Community Alliance.

Its vision is for strong rural communities throughout Europe, joined in national movements, collaborating in a common well-functioning network, working towards a Europe in which rural communities have a strong position in society and a good and sustainable quality of life shaped by the democratic will of the rural people. Current members of ERCA include the national and regional rural networks of Brandenburg in Germany, Catalonia in Spain, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Ireland, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Sweden. All are partners in the European Rural Parliament.

PREPARE Partnership for Rural Europe

The aim of the PREPARE Partnership is to strengthen civil society in rural areas; to promote co-operation between local actors, governments and all stakeholders in rural development, notably in the new member states, accession and neighbourhood counties of the European Union; and to enable multi-national exchange in rural development. 

PREPARE is an international non-profit association (AISBL) under Belgian law. 

The Partnership was formed in 2000 by two European NGOs (Forum Synergies, and ECOVAST) and the national rural networks of Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Hungary.  It has steadily grown over the years, as new national rural networks have been created with PREPARE’s help and joined the Partnership.  In addition to the founders, the partners now include the national rural networks of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.  All of the national partners of PREPARE act as national partners in the European Rural Parliament campaign.  

From 2008 to 2015, much of PREPARE’s work was focused on the Western Balkan countries, assisting the emergence of national rural organisations and promoting the empowerment of rural stakeholders.  In 2016, PREPARE launched its Black Sea Initiative, to support the strengthening of civil society and the increased well-being of rural people in the countries surrounding the Black Sea.  PREPARE’s contacts in the Balkan and Black Sea regions have extended the geographic scope of the European Rural Parliament campaign.

European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD)

ELARD is an international non-profit making association set up to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to maintain their population through sustainable, integrated local development. In doing so ELARD campaigns to spread the philosophy of the LEADER/CLLD method both at a local grassroots and at an institutional level.

ELARD was founded in 1999 by the National LEADER Networks of Local Action Groups (LAGs) of France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain. Since then, its membership has expanded to many other European countries. It now has members in 24 countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, FYROM-Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Almost 2000 Local Action Groups are involved either through their national or regional networks or as individual members. ELARD seeks to expand its membership base even further, especially among the new Member States and the pre-accession countries, in pursuit of the common goal of a sustainable and viable rural Europe. Some ELARD members are acting as national partners in the European Rural Parliament campaign.