Cornelia Wieser, Riverwatch – Attention Decision Makers Participant Demands (slides)
Be patient, think long-term, and go big
- Often seeing successes in our river protection projects and battles take years or even decades > A lot of patience and persistence is needed
- This shouldn’t be off-putting: many major success stories but also collaborations (among organizations/activists, but also between organizations and funders) started with small successes, steps and actions
- What is important in order to stay motivated and not lose courage is that we celebrate our successes
- At the same time, we heard many invitations to think big and more radically > the industrial lobby and also certain decision-makers are not modest in their demands, so why should we be?
To reach our goals, the river community needs:
- High-quality scientific data as a foundation for all – to base our advocacy work on, inform the public, influence decision-makers, develop effective river management interventions, etc.)
- Effective communications that speak to people’s emotions and rekindle their connection to the river. An often mentioned success factor was the importance of communication with local communities, to raise awareness, remove preconceived notions, and to strengthen the connection of locals to their rivers and landscapes.
- To make use of laws, conventions and legal processes to challenge planned constructions/projects or existing structures which do not have the proper legal framework. Moreover, nature needs to be established as a proper legal entity in the longer run, which we can advocate for.
- To stay vigilant to how the international, European and national policy frameworks might change and be proactive in advocacy, so as to be ahead of the curve and not merely reactive -> need for a tight network and sharing information.
What they fear most is us united
- Our river defender community is already made up of quite a large variety of actors: grassroots activists & NGO practitioners, scientists, legal & policy experts, students & youth activists, outdoor sports activists & nature enthusiasts, communication specialists, filmmakers & artists, and even some government experts
- Many of the river protection efforts and success stories presented built on alliances between some or all of these different groups of people, across disciplinary and national boundaries, to combine different strengths and types of expertise and to support each other in individual contexts
- But we are also a community of groups and movements, which follow very different approaches (e.g. dam removal vs. dam prevention; working with authorities or challenging them in court) > We need to be careful to stay in dialogue and work synergetically, rather than competing for resources and for the attention of decision-makers.
To build, strengthen and grow our movement, we need to continue to come together regularly for European Rivers Summits to:
- Stay connected and learn from each other, our campaigns, activities, threats and opportunities;
- Engage with the latest science, tools, policies and funding to help us protect and restore rivers
- Celebrate each other’s successes and regroup after failures;
- Be inspired and energised by each other’s work – and the courage, creativity and commitment of fellow activists
- Join up our efforts and networks where possible, and even if we do not always work together, to stand united!
Outputs compiled by Amelie Huber, EuroNatur, Elise Vitali, Wetlands International Europe and Frank Peiffer, Dam Removal Europe.