Citizen empowerment: An initiative for participatory planning for the Landscape

Citizen empowerment: An initiative for participatory planning for the Landscape

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The Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA) and the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP) presented, during an online press conference, the activities and results of the project “Landscape Public Participation Tools – LPPT”, which was completed after a 3-year implementation period.

Considering the concern and interest of citizens for the landscape but also their inability to participate in policy-making related to it, the LPPT project has implemented since 2021 a series of actions to facilitate their active involvement. The nationwide survey conducted by MedINA among 23 civil society organisations confirmed this reality, with 77.3% of organisations reporting to have taken action to protect and enhance the landscape, but with less than 15% having participated in the formulation of policies affecting it.

The LPPT project focused its pilot actions in three sites, where it implemented and created new tools to strengthen civil society initiatives for the promotion, management and protection of landscapes.

A 2-year integrated approach was implemented in Prespa, in cooperation with SPP. Through participatory workshops (1,2), interviews with citizens and institutions of Prespa and interdisciplinary research to identify, record and produce a typology of the landscapes of the Municipality of Prespa, we documented the changes that occurred over the last 50 years and co-formulated with the citizens landscape quality objectives and policy guidelines for the management of Prespa’s landscapes, which were shared with institutional bodies. This is the first comprehensive landscape study for Prespa, a work that is unfortunately rare in Greece and has been done by MedINA and for a few other areas of the country.

In Western Messinia, special emphasis was placed on educational activities, with the support of the Captain Vassilis and Carmen Konstantakopoulos Foundation. A participatory workshop was organised, resulting in proposals for the safeguarding and enhancement of the rural landscape. At the same time, an educational programme titled “The landscape of our future” was organised in Filiatra with 19 high-school students, aiming to educate teenagers on how they can participate in the shaping of their landscape and claim an active role in it.

In the Aoos river basin, the landscape approach was applied to analyse specific interventions, recording the views of 50 citizens on the landscapes of the area and their assessment of the impacts of Small Hydropower Plants (SHPs) on them. The tools used in the participatory processes in Prespa, Western Messinia and Aoos are hosted, along with other tools, on a dedicated website (https://lppt.med-ina.org/), developed by MedINA to make them accessible to citizens, organisations and researchers.

The conclusions and tools from the pilot applications and the nationwide survey were presented to policy makers from the Ministries of Environment & Energy and Culture, at a meeting held in Athens, leading to the formulation of MedINA’s proposals for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention and citizen participation. Starting from the need to develop a national strategy as an overall policy framework for the protection, management and planning of Greek landscapes, these proposals cover three levels of reference (national, regional, local) and cross a range of policies (Spatial planning, Environmental policy, Water resources management, Energy policy, Cultural heritage protection, Agricultural policy).

As pointed out by Thymios Dimopoulos, project manager, on behalf of MedINA, ”Local communities and civil society in general have expressed in various ways their interest to participate in the management and planning of the landscape. It remains to create the institutional tools that will recognise this interest and systematise the dialogue between state and citizens on the landscape”.

The project “Landscape Public Participation Tools – LPPT” is implemented under the Active citizens fund in Greece by MedINA and its partner SPP.

The Active citizens fund in Greece is supported through a € 15 m grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as part of the EEA Grants 2014-2021. The programme aims to develop the sustainability and capacity of the civil society sector in Greece, and to strengthen its role in promoting and safeguarding democratic procedures, active citizenship and human rights. The Fund Operator for the Active citizens fund in Greece is Bodossaki Foundation in consortium with SolidarityNow. More information: www.activecitizensfund.gr/en/.