This conference aims to show the importance of Mediterranean mountain areas as well as the need to reinforce territorial strategies concerning them. It gathers the six large Mediterranean islands that form a special group which should contribute to broader European discussions on mountains, islands, the environment and the problems of sustainable territorial development. It aims to combine academic and operational approaches. It will thus make it possible to better identify the issues regarding method and use of knowledge while clarifying the strategic issues regarding territorial engineering and governance.
Mountain areas face a set of problems, issues and opportunities and are vital to the regions and countries of which they are part, while being on the European scale hotspots of biodiversity and environmental capital. They are areas under pressure and often in decline but, at the same time, they are experiencing new dynamics and possess important assets and resources of European Community interest.
Island mountain areas are thus decisive at the regional, national and European level. Sustainability strategies are therefore not only based on the collective action of local actors but also respond to major collective European challenges, first and foremost those concerning the environment and ecological and social transitions. The Conference will therefore be resolutely multi-scale, multi-actor and multi-institutional.
This European conference aims at combining the perspectives and analyses of researchers, public officials and local stakeholders from insular mountain areas. The goal is to renew, through a strategic approach, the vision of policies and mechanisms for the development of these areas, in order to take full advantage of their assets and better prepare them for global challenges by interactive debates: environmental, social, economic and governance challenges. It is a question of addressing this issue from a multi-stakeholder and multi-institutional point of view but also at relevant levels, i.e. insular, mountainous, regional, State and European Union level.
Today, in the large Mediterranean islands, just like in all European mountains and islands, despite their assets – their dynamics of tourism and their environmental, cultural and landscape heritage – there are rural regions in decline. Economic, social and connectivity issues are compounded by the magnitude of slow but inexorable and complex ecological changes – firstly, those related to climate change but also those related to the collapse of biodiversity and the degradation of resources (water, soil, forests, etc). Thus, these areas are threatened and under pressure.
Assessing the effects of climate change and its impact on natural and semi-natural environments, as well as developing adaptation strategies, is not just a local issue. These Euro-Mediterranean mountain areas are biodiversity hotspots which should be regarded, at the community level, as public assets of major importance
In this case, mobilising local stakeholders is a necessity because these specific environments require knowledge of practitioners – often-traditional knowledge transmitted to new stakeholders. Local choices can only be made by convergence of interest in mountain communities. Hence the need to focus work and research on stakeholders and local/regional action, while taking into account the global challenges and existing and evolving European Community schemes on these issues. Dynamics of local stakeholders which must also be accompanied by “scale-jumping” strategies (regional, national, European and even international) in order to mobilize the institutional, intellectual, scientific and technical resources, as well as the necessary practices and means.
These sensitive and threatened patrimonial territories are thus at the crossroads of important global and European community issues and very specific local and regional dynamics. Experiences and innovations that take place there, such as policies and tools (regional, national and community) are of prime importance and contain applications/adaptations of new technologies (digital, energy, etc) that respond to both local specificities and global challenges. The same goes for farming production and the management of semi-natural environments that provide both recreational spaces for tourists and urban populations but also high quality products and high typicity, thanks to High Natural Value (HNV) farming often preserved from the negative effects of modernization and specialization owing to natural conditions.
By aiming at a better construction of innovation, conservation and development goals for these territories, while disseminating knowledge and sharing experiences, the objectives are both:
Even though mountain areas of the large Mediterranean islands define specific challenges, the development of strategic solutions can only benefit from its inclusion in more general European debates (in particular those on mountains, insularity, environment, farming, etc.). Reflection on the specificity of these territories can and must also inform and enrich the European common debates.
In this conference, it is not a question of creating a “development model” for the Mediterranean insular mountain territories and general recommendations which are often not applicable in the field. The aim is to proceed to a debate on the method to be used, which shall necessarily be multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder, multi-institutional and multi-scale based on specific situations, on the expertise of local stakeholders and on the results of scientific and technical research. It is not a question either of creating experiments in “good practices” that would be enough to reproduce in each territory. What is important is to give food for thought for all the mountain and insular geography, allowing stakeholders to connect and to identify innovations that could inspire everybody while taking into account local specificities and issues. Since the debate on declining rural areas has intensified in recent years, it is becoming necessary for insular mountain areas to strengthen cooperation both with each other and with the continental mountain areas in order to actively participate in the elaboration of appropriate European policies. The Conference will contribute to the content and form of this cooperation.
In this new framework of negotiations, a remarkable European debate is developing, as well as an accumulation of innovative initiatives and experiences that can contribute significantly to the sustainable development of insular mountain territories. The work of this Conference can enrich the European debate on mountains, islands and geographical specificities in the E.U.