The alpine region, through its biodiversity, landscape and culture, has great social and economic significance attached to it. The alpine landscape and its natural resources yield a whole range of benefits that are utilised by a large number of stakeholders who have widely differing interests in their use and protection. Conservatory and economic interests increas-ingly oppose each other. Further, the scope for changes and change processes narrows significantly in the sensitive and small structured alpine region. The management of alpine development processes is a trans-sectoral task, requiring the different stakeholders to all work together. To avoid conflicts and to find new ways of managing landscapes resources, an early involvement of all relevant interest groups is crucial. Unlike in conventional processes, a participative planning process offers the possibility to find "win-win" instead of "win-loose" solutions for all interest groups, as compromises can be aspired to from the beginning.
by Johannes Heeb, seecon international gmbh
Change is constantly happening in the Alps - managed properly and in cooperation with all stakeholders - it does not have to be a negative process (Source: K. CONRADIN).
Challenges Faced by Alpine Development
Alpine development processes face a multitude of challenges. The most important of these are presented here:
- Sectoral thinking and varying perceptions: Individual stakeholders can be strongly influenced by their particular area of work and lose sight of the 'big picture'. Sectoral thinking influences people's ideas about which projects are considered good, and how they should be implemented in practice. A narrow view hampers understanding for differing perceptions about cause and effect relationships. Differing perceptions can compromise or even jeopardise a project. A lack of understanding about the motives and individual interests of stakeholders often makes rapid progress difficult. In addition, joint platforms, that would assist communication and improve mutual understanding, are often nonexistent.
- Ambiguity as to value and benefit: Furthermore, uncertainties about a particular project's value or benefits for the different stakeholders, or for the region as a whole, often exist particularly at the start of the project. Such uncertainties are possibly due more to poor communication than to lacking knowledge. As a consequence of such uncertainty and ambiguity the desire to try something new, or the willingness to take on a particular risk, fades away. In a similar way, fears of the future consequences of change also have a hindering effect.
- Balancing the land use interests: Incompatible land use interests lead to 'friction loss'. If indi-vidual parties are not willing to deviate from their particular standpoint, then this can rapidly lead the whole process to a stalemate. Positions that appear to be irreconcilable can often be traced back to personal differences, a lack of trust between different parties, or fear of losing power and control; and yet just these traits form part of the basic preconditions that need to be dealt with in the planning of regional development projects, which, in the end always revolve around people.
- Ensuring competency: A basic challenge in regional development projects is variable knowl-edge of the theoretical and methodological fundamentals of regional development. Without these 'hand tools' it is difficult to develop projects efficiently and then successfully realise them. The technical, vocational and professional heterogeneity of project teams (private und governmental partners, professional and volunteer stakeholders) can be problematic in this regard.
- Securing resources: An equally significant challenge is the lack of resources and time amongst the involved stakeholders. Often stakeholders are fully active in their chosen vocation and look after projects on the side, additional to their regular work. Also, projects are often 'pushed along' by key individuals who invest a great deal of energy, while other participants possibly have less commitment and motivation. These two factors can be problematic particularly when, on top of everything else, the expectations for a project are very high or possibly even too high, or unworkable aims are set.
- Clarification of roles and purpose: Unclear understanding of roles or purpose, as well as in-adequate (or non-existent) organisational structures in a project, make development proc-esses more difficult or impossible; these are difficulties that can be avoided with better knowledge of methodological fundamentals. A situation where processes are not questioned or checked, so that there is no process monitoring as such, can lead to similar difficulties.
CIPRA INFO 84
This issue of Cipra Info deals with change and new ideas in the alps, with a focus on economy.
PFEFFERKORN et al. (2006)
Though this Future in the Alps-report primarily deals with new forms of decision making, some aspects are also relevant here.
"Future in the Alps Workshop"
Which form of public participation do landscape- and environment oriented projects need? (in German)