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!

Rural Parliaments

The European Rural Parliament is modelled on the original idea as established by Sweden, and replicated in other countries at national level. The national rural parliaments are all run by national rural movements, all of which are National Partners in the ERP, and members of ERCA and/or PREPARE. There is accordingly a very strong link between the national and the European rural parliaments, and they are an important part of the overall ERP campaign, with information and ideas being exchanged between them.

The concept of the Rural Parliament was originated by the Swedish rural movement Hela Sverige ska leva HSSL. The very first Rural Parliament was held in 1989. Since then, the idea has spread and, in addition to the European Rural Parliament, there are now 13 rural parliaments held in 12 countries: Sweden, Estonia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Scotland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia. Swedish-speaking Finland, Finland, Albania. New Rural Parliaments are currently planned in Macedonia and Montenegro in 2019.

A ‘Rural Parliament’ is not a formal part of government, nor is it a parliament in the sense of a legislative or decision-making body, and it is apolitical. It is a ‘bottom-up’ process of involvement and debate between the rural people and policy makers to enable better understanding, improved policy and action to address rural issues. It is focused on achieving practical and policy-based outcomes relevant to the challenges and opportunities facing rural people. These outcomes are monitored and further developed in the period between Rural Parliaments.

A rural parliament is not only an event, but a process, which spans a 2 year cycle culminating in a high-profile biennial event – the ‘Rural Parliament’, which brings together all sectors of rural society to highlight issues and discuss rural priorities with each other and with Government.  Between the biennial events, work is carried out to identify issues, ideas and proposals from the grassroots of rural communities to the rural parliament followed by actions implemented following the event, including advocacy to government. In this way, they are much more than just a conference. They are powerful in mobilising and gathering people and ideas from the rural communities, and turning these into manifestos for action. They are also a shop window for rural areas and their people.

Information from the different rural parliaments will be posted on the associated web-pages.

Albania

Croatia

Estonia

Scotland

North Macedonia

Latvia

Lithuania