Catch-up with CCRI’s Visiting Professor of European Rural Development, Michael Dower

Professor Michael Dower

CCRI was pleased to hear from our Visiting Professor of European Rural Development, Michael Dower, this week, bringing us up to date on his role as Coordinator of the PREPARE Partnership for Rural Europe and Joint Coordinator of the European Rural Parliament.

He told us that in April 2014 he co-organised an ambitious series of traveling workshops and conferences focused on “Empowering rural stakeholders in the Western Balkans”, funded by the European Commission;  and wrote a major report with the same title, published by the Commission.

During 2015, Michael masterminded the process of gathering by national rural civil-society networks of an ‘upward cascade’ of ideas from rural people in 36 European countries, as the main input to the second European Rural Parliament held in Austria in November 2015.  He then assembled and edited those ideas into a report “ALL Europe shall Live”, and drafted the European Rural Manifesto which was intensively debated and adopted at that European Rural Parliament.  These documents can be found on the website

The report and the Manifesto called for full recognition of the right of rural communities to a quality of life and standard of living equal to that of urban populations, and to full participation in political processes.  The Rural Parliament called for a refreshed and equitable partnership between people and governments.  It recognized that rural people have a responsibility to act towards their own well-being, but demanded that governments at all levels, including the European institutions, work to make this crucial partnership effective.

RECARE, soil, Terraces 392x272This year, Michael and his colleagues have laid the groundwork for the European Rural Parliament 2016-17 campaign, which is now being launched with multinational working groups on 15 key themes.   In early September, he represented the PREPARE Partnership at the Cork 2 Conference convened by the European Commission to discuss future policies for Rural Development.

He is now preparing a Black Sea Traveling Workshop, to be held in late October this year, with the aim of creating a network of people in civil society and government involved in rural development in eight countries surrounding the Black Sea – Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.  This event will enable exchange of ideas between people from those countries and from PREPARE partners based in the EU and the Western Balkans.   It will focus on the well-being of small farming communities, and on the strengthening of civil society organisations in rural areas and of partnership between civil society organisations and governments.

Last but not least, Michael is acting as Rapporteur of the Third World conference on Terraced Landscapes, to be held at Padova, Italy in mid-October.

Michael and his wife Nan moved in 2012 from Cheltenham to the small town of Beaminster in Dorset in order (he says) ‘to be rural again’.  He is now acting as voluntary manager of two Woodlands in Beaminster, owned by the County Council and the Secondary School.   He is vice-chairman of the Southern Dorset Local Action Group, one of the family of over 2000 groups in the European Union who implement the LEADER element in rural development programmes, which Michael has been championing around Europe since its creation in 1991.