Adopted in Forli-Cesena, Agenda 21 is a UN project aimed at creating a list of actions which is both responsive to current development needs and sustainable for future generations.
Problems and Purpose
Agenda 21—“the list of actions to take in the 21st century in order to achieve sustainable development”—is a UN project aimed at creating a concrete model of development which responded to the needs of the present without compromising the capacity of future generations to enjoy their own existence. Municipalities and regions adopting Agenda 21, such as Forli-Cesena in Emilio Romagna, must therefore consider the interaction between social, environmental, and economic dmiensions to be the key for the conservation and management of a territory’s resources. To this end, actions to be taken need to conform to the relevant territory’s characteristiscs, and to respond to the need of the affected populations: the most common themes of discussion and intervention are fighting poverty, changing patterns of production and consumption, demographic dynamics, conservation and management of natural resources, protection of the atmosphere, oceans, and biodiversity; prevention of deforestation; promotion of sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, permaculture, etc.
Background History and Context
The UN project, Agenda 21, was created during the World Conference on the Environment and Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the objective of which was to create a concrete model of sustainable development which responded to current needs without compromising the future. After this conference, 178 governments around the world, including Italy, adopted this document signifying the intent to promote so-called sustainable development, which, by taking social, environmental, and economic variables into account, aimed to identify in a territory incompatible elements or existing conflicts between socioeconomic activities and the politics of protecting the environment.
In chapter 28 of Agenda 21, the UN gave Local Entitites the role of promoters in the processes which involved all representatives of civil society, reinforcing their role and participation, and which resulted in the creation of a Plan of Action for sustainable development at a local level. Local authorities—municipal, provincial, regional—were invited to play a key role in the education, mobilization and response of the public for the promotion of a sustainable development. Through consultations and consensus-building, they could create a sort of reciprocal exchange through which local businesses and communities could absorb the necessary information to create and apply new strategies.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
In Emilio Romagna, specifically Forli-Cesena Province, the adoption of Local Agenda 21 was most substantial in two locations: the town of Bagno di Romana in collaboration with Sarsina, Verghereto and the towns of the Roman Adriatic coast—Cesenatico, Gatteo, San Mauro Pascoli and Savignano Sul Rubicone; and the communities of Appennino Forlivese in collaboration with Acquacheta. From first glance, the heterogeneity of participating actors and the variety of the types of stakeholders who took part in the participatory process was clear: individual citizens, law enforcement, associations, agricultural sindicates, consumer and environmental organizations, professional groups, universities, schools, training organizations, religious institutes, sport organizations, banks, foundations, businesses, institutions, student groups, provincial councillors, political parties, and MPs.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
This participatory process was structured in two principal phases, one internal and one external. The first was summarized in the launch meeting at the Provincial Junta, in the presence of the President and all assessors. It aimed to elaborate the Junta’s Declaration of Sustainability, in which sustainable development was recognized as a strategic line for provincial politics: this document stated that, in the political pursuit of environmentally sustainable development of the territory, the entity was to operate the care of the natural environment so as to assure efficient and effective resource management, directing endogenous economic development towards entrepreneurial forms which prize research and innovation, assuring homogenously diffused growth, valuing the quality of work, maintaining and possibly augmenting social, regional, and multiethnic cohesion, searching to assure the balance between social opportunities for the weakest groups with a guarantee of welfare. In this view, the attempt to promote higher levels of democracy and citizen participation in decision processes represented the method through which to enact sustainable processes.
The external phase instead included from the first moment stakeholders. The procedure of identifying and involving stakeholders was guided by a principle of governance defined in the White Book of the European Commission, namely the “principle of transparency” which provided for the involvement in participatory processes of all stakeholders in a community, or in this case, the identification of all subjects at a provincial level who held a shared interest. Mediating this process of involvement, developed for a territorial area, they proposed to incentivize the participation of all the various interests present in the territory. The selection of those invitated to the thematic meetings was made in keeping with the theme of discussion of the workshops in question; however, given that Local Agenda 21 is a voluntary process by definition, all citizens who asked to take part were included in the Forum. For each meeting, personalized letters of invitation were sent along with the agenda, and a follow up phone call was made to confirm attendence.
Methods and Tools Used
EASW—European Awareness Scenario Workshop—was used for the active phase of the process. EASW, developed by the EU, is based on two principal activities: firstly, the “defintion of scenarios” and following, the “proposal of ideas”. In general, EASW serves to stimulate democratic participation in decisions about improving the quality of life in a community. It allows participants to exchange information and discuss themes and processes which govern technological development and the impact of technologies on the natural and social environment, stimulating the capacity to identify and plan concrete solutions for existing problems.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
In the first phase of the EASW, the participants, divided into homogeneous groups of origin, built an autonomous vision of the future. To this end, it was necessary to stimulate an integrated approach which took into account the complexities and interdependencies which characterized the contributions. Regardless of the discussed theme, participants were asked to define possible future characteristics of their imagined scenario, in order to suggest possible practical and effective ways to realize the scenario. Each scenario highlighted what the group wished to achieve, in a timeframe of 10 years, for the sustainability of the local territory.
In the second phase, the participants, divided into mixed groups, made operational proposals for actions necessary to begin to realize those constructed future scenarios. In this activity, the participants were asked to be concise and concrete, to explain the steps involved, and to identify subjects of action (WHO) and the ways in which to realize the proposals (HOW). In each thematic meeting, the participants were invited to identify strategic and specific objectives, actors, and priorities.
On May 14th, 2003, the Constitution and Activation of the Permanent Provincial Forum of Local Agenda 21 was launched, and themes for the workshops were chosen. More than 100 stakeholders came to the meeting, from economic, production, and agricultural institutions, cultural and environmental associations, and volunteers. Thanks to collaboration with a research team from the University of Siena, there was a report on the Ecological Footprint of the province, an analysis of the consumption and environmental impacts of a territory. There was also an energy analysis, which considered the necessary processes in the production of energy, and materials used during such processes, including both economic factors—the energy and the used material being quantified also in monetary terms—and environmental ones, linked to resource consumption expressed in units of solar energy. Both methodologies showed the strong impact of human activities on the province.
The Forum was composed of three workshops, taking place in different locations across the province and on different days. In these workshops, the presence of participants was accompanied by technical experts with the objective of enriching and deepening the work from a strictly tehcnical point of view. The themes had emerged from reflection about the “sensitive” areas susceptible to increased participation, considering studies on the increasing ecological footprint of the territory.
The first workshop—September 19th, 2003—featured the subject of “Consumption and Lifestyles”, from were subgroups emerged to discuss themes of energy, garbage, transport and logistics , and instruments of sustainability.
“Agriculture and the Territory” was the subject of the second meeting, on October 17th 2003. Subthemes formed to consider the management of water resources, the use of the territory, ecocompatible production, and agriculture of the future.
“Innovation and Development” was the title of the final workshop, on November 7th 2003, which saw discussion around themes of information, training, and participation as prerequisites for the diffusion and sharing of information, research, and knowledge about environmental problems; research and innovation as the point of departure for new strands for research and knowledge about the territory’s particularities; new personalities and training, regarding contributions and incentives to support the creation of qualified professionals and skilled labor; identity and territory, regarding the birth of a new sense of perception of the teritory to value its uniqueness and traits.
The final Plan of Local Area Action was presented on February 11th 2004. This phase including collecting results from each thematic workshop in order to create the final document. It identified new objectives, stimuli, and ideas around the theme of “sustainability”, integrated with activities already occurring. The object was to create an outline as complete as possible of what was being done in the territory and what stakeholders saw as the priorities to be done.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
In the case of Local Agenda 21 of the Province of Forli-Cesena, the level of participation of stakeholders at the Forum was high. However, data on the heterogeneity of the composition of the particpants raises doubts about the efficiency of the process, balance of decision-making, external conflicts of interest, and political-economic pressures. Of the participants, 46% were representatives of Institutions, 17% businesses, 11% associations, 10% environmental organizations, 6% training bodies, and 4 agricultural syndicates. Only 3% were citizens, and 1% represented professional orders, schools, political parties, and MPs.
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