River Contracts (RCs) are voluntary agreements between stakeholders for managing water bodies and involve participatory, evidence-based action plans. Increasingly, European authorities recognize that effective water policies require bottom-up, inclusive decision-making. Despite widely held assumptions about the benefits of including stakeholders in river basin management and encouraging participatory mechanisms of decision-making, the growing rhetoric about the need for public engagement implies that this ‘new’ paradigm of water management remains filled with ambiguities. Adopting ethnographic methods and drawing on a variety of primary and secondary sources, this paper analyses three RCs in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. These case studies reveal the potential for RCs as tools not only for water management, but also for increasing stakeholders’ involvement through place-making activities conceived as potential hydrophilic encounters. In order to understand whether RCs contribute to a fluvial sense of place, we looked at the effects of top-down versus participatory processes. we asked whether RCs were considered participatory processes designed to achieve a co-designed outcome or simply territorial management projects that objectify the river as something to be developed. We looked at the weights of either top-down or participatory processes and whether RCs were considered territorial management projects or participatory processes. We found that ratifying an RC was not, in itself, proof of an effective process; rather the nature and quality of an RC was determined by the degree and type of participation. We contend that participatory events and sharing information are not sufficient in themselves to achieve the active involvement of all stakeholders. We argue that the best framework for enabling place-making and enhancing a sense of place is to develop RCs within a process that includes a high degree of participation. This enables citizens to shift from simply being passive recipients of plans and becoming effective territorial actors.

River Contracts in north-east Italy: Water management or participatory processes?

Federico Venturini
Co-primo
;
Francesco Visentin
Co-primo
2022

Abstract

River Contracts (RCs) are voluntary agreements between stakeholders for managing water bodies and involve participatory, evidence-based action plans. Increasingly, European authorities recognize that effective water policies require bottom-up, inclusive decision-making. Despite widely held assumptions about the benefits of including stakeholders in river basin management and encouraging participatory mechanisms of decision-making, the growing rhetoric about the need for public engagement implies that this ‘new’ paradigm of water management remains filled with ambiguities. Adopting ethnographic methods and drawing on a variety of primary and secondary sources, this paper analyses three RCs in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy. These case studies reveal the potential for RCs as tools not only for water management, but also for increasing stakeholders’ involvement through place-making activities conceived as potential hydrophilic encounters. In order to understand whether RCs contribute to a fluvial sense of place, we looked at the effects of top-down versus participatory processes. we asked whether RCs were considered participatory processes designed to achieve a co-designed outcome or simply territorial management projects that objectify the river as something to be developed. We looked at the weights of either top-down or participatory processes and whether RCs were considered territorial management projects or participatory processes. We found that ratifying an RC was not, in itself, proof of an effective process; rather the nature and quality of an RC was determined by the degree and type of participation. We contend that participatory events and sharing information are not sufficient in themselves to achieve the active involvement of all stakeholders. We argue that the best framework for enabling place-making and enhancing a sense of place is to develop RCs within a process that includes a high degree of participation. This enables citizens to shift from simply being passive recipients of plans and becoming effective territorial actors.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11390/1230324
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