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Project How to achieve sustainable water ecosystems management connecting research, people and policy makers in Europe

AWARE is the acronym of an European Project about “how to achieve sustainable water ecosystems management connecting research, people and policy makers in Europe”, funded under the 7th Research Framework Programme and started in June 2009.

The project considers the best scientific knowledge available, and the local management practices, in three pilot case studies of coastal water ecosystems – the Gulf of Riga (Estonia and Latvia), the Seine, Somme and Schelde river basins and the Southern North Sea coastal zone (France and Belgium) and the Goro lagoon in the Po delta area (Italy).
The scientific knowledge and the knowledge about local water management practices is combined and shared with a number of actors – scientists, policy makers, stakeholders and citizens – in a participatory process undertaken at European and local level, in the three case study areas.

The backbone of the process is represented by a panel of 30 citizens randomly selected among a pool of candidates in the three areas. 
The citizens (10 for each case) are engaged in a number of workshops and a final conference at European level – meeting all together with scientists and policy experts. 
The goal is to discuss the EU water policy framework and how to connect scientific knowledge and water management practices to achieve a good ecological status of the coastal waters. They are involved also in local workshops and conferences at local level, running in parallel in Autumn 2010 in the three case study areas, and engaging as well local stakeholders and policy makers. 
The overall process is a first experiment of connecting lay people, scientists and policy makers in the analysis and evaluation of sustainable strategies to manage complex socio-ecological systems.

The AWARE consortium includes 13 partners of complementary expertise in the field of aquatic ecosystems studies (UU, UPMC, ULB, UNIPR), social sciences (ADELPHI, ICCR, Missions Publiques), system analysis (ISIS, JRC-IES, UNISI) and integrated water management (BIOFORSK, POLIEDRA), plus the Environmental Service from the Provincial Administration of Ferrara, directly in charge of the environmental planning in the area hosting the Po delta pilot case studies.

Project number n/a
Subject(s) no translation available , no translation available , no translation available , no translation available
Acronym AWARE
Geographical coverage Italy, Sweden, France, EC, Norway, ESA, Latvia,
Budget (in €) 0
Programme FP7
Web site

AWARE is a project funded by the European Union under the 7th Research Framework Programme. The project addresses the anthropogenic deterioration of water ecosystems in coastal areas. Three areas will be studied: (a) the Gulf of Riga, (b) the Southern North Sea, and (c) Po Delta /Sacca di Goro. Both the Gulf of Riga and the Southern North Sea coastal areas display high levels of pollution and eutrophication; the situation is better in the Po Delta/Sacca di Goro case whereby the latter’s intensive use for clam rearing make it a potential pollution site. 

All three areas are targeted by recent EU directives such as the Urban Waste Water Directive, the Nitrates Directive, the EU Marine Strategy Directive and the Integrated Coastal Management Approach; and national or cross-border science-policy interface (SPI) initiatives carried out in the context of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

The specific objective of the AWARE project is to explore with reference to each of the above three case studies:

  • how scientific knowledge is used in policy formulation and implementation, and
  • how policy managers interact with the public and civil society.

This will allow us to find out under which of the three models illustrated in the figure below contemporary coastal management is situated.

Namely, the questions about which models apply are:

  1. Does it follow a traditional ecosystem management approach characterized by a clear distinction between the role and inputs of scientists, policy-makers and the public – also with respect to the timing of interaction and the policy process? In this model policy makers use scientists inputs upstream and communicate the policy to the public downstream, without any interaction between scientist and the public in the upstream formulation of the scientific and policy issues.
  2. Or is it rather organized according to a participation-limited adaptive management approach in the framework of which scientists and policy managers work closer together but only relate to the public and civil society downstream in the policy process? In this approach the Science-Policy Interface is strengthened, but the public continue to receive the science and policy “wisdom” as a final result delivered downstream, without any opportunity in the process to provide early feedback and influence somewhat the policy formulation.
  3. Or it follows a fully integrated adaptive approach to ecosystem management, which represents the third and more advanced stage of interaction between different stakeholders. Under this model the three stakeholder groups interact throughout the policy process

The theory of participation in policy-making is based on the hypothesis that the third model, i.e. the integrated adaptive approach to ecosystem management, is the ‘better’ one both in terms of democratic input and in terms of policy output. The assumption here is that decision-making processes based on participation and on deliberation are more likely to lead to better decisions as the latter will reflect different stakeholder interests. Critics of this approach point out that a distinction needs to be drawn between the acceptability of a policy and the quality of its output. 

Resolving this debate is not the objective of the AWARE project. However, our objective is one of empirical research, namely, to realize three pilot experiments in the three case study areas of participatory coastal management approach – i.e. practical examples of integrative adaptive approach - and draw general lessons and recommendations about the usability of this approach to address the problem of deterioration and potential eutrophication of coastal waters across Europe.

Period [01/06/2009 - 30/11/2011]