(21 February 2014) – More than 150 people – grassroots practitioners, MEPs, academics, representatives of organisations and networks, and simply ‘ordinary’ citizens – participated in the conference, ‘Reinventing Europe through Local Initiative’ in Brussels on 19-20 February by the European Association for Information on Local Development (AEIDL) on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. Presentations, discussions and networking focused on 25 ‘promising initiatives’, which have shown that local, citizen-led and participative initiatives for sustainable development are needed more than ever.
During the first day at the European Parliament, Márta Márczis and Yves Champetier, respectively president and board member of AEIDL, recalled the values and ideas promoted by the association.
These are summarised in a statement produced for the event: “We are convinced that local initiatives, citizen involvement, social innovation and experimentation, the identification of and respect for shared assets, solidarity between regions here and elsewhere, and the invention of new forms of multi-level and multi-stakeholder governance, can all contribute to building the Europe we aspire to – a Europe rich in the diversity of its landscapes, its communities and its cultures, open to the world, and striving for a new economic and social equilibrium.”
The next day, six parallel workshops addressed, through the diversity of the 25 selected local initiatives, all the current and future aspects of local development: cohesion and inclusion, social economy, regional development and local circuits, quality of life, energy transition and climate change, etc.
“A ‘quiet revolution’ has been going on for 25 years and this revolution needs networks,” said Michael Dower, rapporteur for the conference. “ARC2020, other networks and those such as ECOLISE or FARNET that AEIDL is highlighting, fit perfectly into this philosophy which will ultimately ensure that – paraphrasing the movement launched in Sweden about two decades ago, ‘all Europe shall live’.”
All in all, it is fair to say that this AEIDL conference was a complete success, both in the quality of exchanges it inspired and in the intense networking it facilitated, often among participants who were meeting for the first time.