From archetypes, Strategic Options and policy needs for mountains in 2050

by | Apr 18, 2024 | MOVING

Author: Isabella Maglietti Smith (ORIGIN)

Origin for Sustainability has unveiled the latest report from the Foresight Exercise, shedding light on the transition from archetypes to strategic options and policy needs. In this article, we delve into a journey aimed at confronting future scenarios, strategic options, policy needs, and the imminent challenges of mountain regions, along with the general conclusions of this part of the MOVING project.

During the Foresight Exercise, and after performing the regional Workshops, Origin for Sustainability delineated archetypes to categorise and elucidate the future vision for 22 European value chain mountain regions within the MOVING project. These archetypes, encompassing Economy, Niche and Diversification, Nature, and Knowledge and Innovation, served as foundational pillars. From these archetypes, and with the input of stakeholders from the value chains, a trajectory was charted—from envisioning negative scenarios to crafting positive ones. Also, a quantitative survey was conducted with 579 citizens in the MOVING countries. The results revealed citizen preferences for interventions included land management, education investment, forestry and agriculture support, infrastructure development, business conditions improvement, technology transfer facilitation, university access enhancement, and nature protection.

This journey led to the identification of strategic options aimed at surmounting the challenges of the future. Existing Strategic Options and initiatives across Europe have been identified, and new ones have been created during an event in January 2024 in Brussels.

Understanding Strategic Options

Strategic Options represent specific interventions or initiatives formulated by stakeholders to address challenges, harness opportunities, and shape desired future outcomes. Tailored to the unique context of each region, these options are designed to achieve specific objectives and can be replicated in other regions with the necessary support and policies. While not policies themselves, Strategic Options serve as actionable pathways for navigating complex challenges and advancing toward desired goals.

Regional strategies and Strategic Options: Forging resilient paths

In January 2024 in Brussels, a European workshop showcased several emerging Strategic Options at local/regional levels. Others were elaborated in working groups, offering a glimpse of future options to address the evolving needs of the European mountains. This collaborative endeavour aimed to identify the main challenges and explore avenues for upgrading them to a European level, fostering replication in other regions, and discerning policy needs to support these options. A total of 30 Strategic Options were gathered, and they will soon be available online.

Exploring the strategic landscape

These strategic options encompass a spectrum of interventions. Notably, the initiative ‘Smart Villages’ emerged as a strategic option, offering innovative solutions to rural challenges through digitalisation and community governance.

From Strategic Options to recommendations for mountain policies

Recognising the diversity of Europe’s mountains, there is no one-size-fits-all policy mix. Instead, policies should provide a framework for the development of strategic options, with tools like LEADER offering interpretative flexibility at the local level. Agency—the ability of individuals or groups to shape policies and governance—stands as a pivotal concept in this endeavour.

Policy recommendations for 2050

To foster mountain policies, urgent investment in protecting access routes and post-climatic event restoration is necessary, alongside tailored investment plans and European funding earmarked for mountain areas. Modernising tools like LEADER and SMART-Village, integrating European measures into National Strategic Plans, and enhancing local competencies in product quality and origin protection are essential for agricultural production. Additionally, supporting practices enhancing ecosystem resilience and developing mountain-specific schemes for remunerating ecosystem services are vital.

Strengthening community decision-making, capacity-building, and policy support through simplified tools for collective actions are needed. Exploring “Erasmus Altitude” for accelerated knowledge exchange within mountain networks is recommended, aiming to fortify mountain regions’ resilience and vitality amidst evolving challenges.

In conclusion, there is consensus on mountains’ vulnerability and fragility and there is no one-size-fits-all policy. It is vital for mountain communities to actively participate in foresight exercises to effectively address the challenges posed by climate change. This involves reconciling global and local actions and fostering consensus on adapted strategic options. While participatory exercises have limitations, particularly in addressing contentious issues like land management, they remain essential for informed decision-making.

Moreover, it is crucial to acknowledge the vulnerability of mountain areas and the sense of marginalisation felt by stakeholders. Prioritising mountain regions in policy-making and supporting local initiatives is crucial, alongside efforts to promote adaptation and transition to sustainable practices. Empowering local stakeholders and advocating for multi-level governance are essential steps towards ensuring a sustainable future for mountain regions.