Water is a common good, rivers know no borders, therefore they belong to all. Water Democracy aims to empower citizens and NGOs to be actively involved in decision making and management regarding this precious and scarce resource. Through a transboundary citizen summit in Chaves/Verin – Portugal/Spain – the cooperation of civil society on both sides of the border will be fostered, and the first steps for a transboundary citizen platform for the protection of river Tâmega river will be taken.
In Chaves/Verin, two municipalities on the border between Portugal and Spain.
Chaves and Verin are an eurocity that is bonded by a very iconic element: water.
For literally thousands of years, people have discovered healing properties in the spring waters, and the rivers and water canals are part of the history of the region and its people.
But a border, different institutions and rules, and a lack of involvement of civil society in the management and decision-making regarding this uniting element leads to people’s estrangement from actively protecting the river, as its the pollution and fighting over the amount of flowing water between the two sides of the border are main issues that afflict this region.
The water dissolves borders, languages, accents and cultures. It's the perfect mixing pot that has been boiling in perfect harmony for longer than we can count. Romans named the city of Chaves after its waters and all around the region there are myths and legends about its purity and healing properties.
In a place so bonded with this element, we think it's important to raise awareness on how to protect it, on how we can change behaviours so we can maintain it and help rebuild things that we may have destroyed.
We want to do this, mobilising the community, fostering transboundary cooperation and strengthening the role of civil society, in a way that is perpetuated so this beautiful place can still be united by this liquid harmony.
The project will target different actors, especially focusing on citizens from all walks of life it will also target the school community and NGOs.
Being civil society the main force we want to empower, we will involve citizens and NGOs throughout the process, with a variety of approaches, namely promoting awareness in schools, developing participatory art interventions, using culture as tool to engage citizens and foster a sense of co-creation; a summit where at least 100 people from both sides of the border will gather to know each other, learn together and forge the path for cooperation.
This process will be facilitated through a Non Formal Education methodology, where each participant’s learning path is at the centre of the learning process, i.e. the previous experiences and knowledge is central for the individual and collective learning. It is a safe participatory learning space, where all opinions are valid and welcomed and where there is a sense of humility in admitting of what one knows, and what one doesn’t. It is a horizontal process, where participants and facilitators learn collectively, and participation is voluntary. There will be a range of methods operating during the project, from experiential learning, participatory discussions and art interventions, expert seminars, films and debates, workshops.
In a year from now we will have a local citizen-led platform to protect the river and the surrounding land, that actively works as a Water Democracy advocate, bringing citizens and NGOs into the management and decision-making regarding rivers and water resources. We will have a civil society that is more aware and more active in protecting this common resource, and that cooperation across the border, fields of action and institutions is flowing and flourishing.
The scope of action will be local with a regional perspective, being the platform integrated in the broader Rede Douro Vivo, which will enable the cooperation within the whole hydrological region.
The project will promote cross border cooperation, bringing institutions, NGOs and people from both sides to work together, to learn from each other to have a common platform of dialogue and decision making. It will also foster the creation of a platform of citizens and NGOs that will be integrated in a regional network (Rede Douro Vivo) which is part of national and international platforms, thus this local project will be connected with broader geographical and political units, fostering a local action with a global perspective. The project will also promote the dialogue with public institutions improving their relationship with citizens and bringing both closer together, which will increase the accountability of institutions and the participation of citizen in democratic life.
We believe that this project will help us be more conscientious, aware and responsible for the places and people around us. We also believe culture is much more than what we have on stages and museums. It's the collective memory and the concern for the environment that surrounds us. It's everything that makes us connect. The river is, in the case of our region, a perfect metaphor for all the things we share between borders and that connect us in infinite levels. Without it, our own essence as people and our past is lost. We believe it's very important for our people to be aware of the dangers that it faces, the problems that we might be able to solve and all the information that can be useful so those stories can be perpetuated and so our past is also our future.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Coordination - 1000EUR
Communication and design - 5412 EUR
Summit - 7048 EUR
Artists' Residency - 9500 EUR
School community sessions - 4500 EUR
Film Festival - 3000 EUR
Photo and Literary contests - 1000 EUR
Concert/show - 5000
Technical material for concert/show - 3000 EUR
We want to receive feedback about the overall strategy as well as suggestions about specific tools or resources to mobilise communities, to foster dialogue and critical thought and to promote a shared governance.