The Michael Dower Award for European Rural Resilience

Tue, 09/05/2023 - 10:14am

Prof. 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 also gave strong support to the development of SRA, the Scottish Rural Parliament and a Scottish rural movement.

'The Michael Dower European Rural Resilience' Award has been launched in his honour to encourage civic action in rural areas in wider Europe which: 

  • preserves nature and cultural heritage
  • strengthens democracy and peace
  • and empowers rural people and their civil society organisations to take their destiny into their own hands.

It will recognise the outstanding work of individuals and organisations in nurturing the protection of Europe’s rural heritage, which is to be found throughout its rich and diverse countryside. It will also acknowledge their efforts to respond to the growing challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and rural depopulation. You can find out more about this award here.

Importantly, the organising body of this award at the University of Gloucestershire is looking for funds to support the award. So, if you knew Michael and care about rural Europe, please consider offering a donation so that a sum of money can be pulled together and can be used to attract matching grants and other kinds of support from those public institutions in Britain and across Europe. Please do have a look here at the Award booklet for more information.

Vanessa Halhead, Honorary President of Scottish Rural Action, reflects more broadly on Michael's life:

He was instrumental in developing the European Rural Parliament partnership and process, in which SRA is an active partner. He co-ordinated and wrote the foundational document ‘All Europe shall Live’, based on a survey of all the European Partners, from which he developed the first ERP Manifesto at the 2nd ERP Gathering in Austria in 2015.

The format of the European Rural Parliament process has inspired our own Scottish Rural Parliament. Michael both mentored the development of this process and was a strong supporter in the 2012 conference, which launched the idea in Scotland (link to the workshop here).

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 was Professor of European Rural Development at the University of Gloucestershire; edited and promoted the European Landscape Convention for the Council of Europe; was Director General of the Countryside Commission for England and Wales and managed the Peak District National Park in England.

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 the rural areas of Europe.