Implementation of the Public Participation Principle in Integrated Water Management - With Special Reference to the ICPDR Communication Strategy - page 02

Activities relating to the communication strategy and public participation in planning and water management in the Danube River Basin have been ongoing, in stages, since 2003. Their aim is to:

  • Ensure communication and public participation in the implementation of the WFD and the EU Floods Directive (EFD)1;
  • Facilitate the establishment of efficient structures and mechanisms for public participation in the Danube River Basin;
  • Provide guidelines to member states, so that they can fulfill their obligations under the water directives;
  • Keep key stakeholders informed about public participation activities and structures at different levels.

In this regard, communication templates need to be developed for each geographic level of public participation, which include information about needed activities, objectives, available capacities, activity coordinators, participants, and timeframes. Public participation activities and mechanisms require capacity building, mainly at local or regional administrations, but often also national bodies tasked with WFD implementation. To a large extent additional capacities are provided by NGOs and other participants, as well as the ICPDR itself.

 

ICPDR's Communication Channels

In all activities that target the public, the ICPDR uses a large number of communication channels, the most important of which are briefly discussed below.

  • Publications

The ICPDR produces a large number of publications, which can be divided into several categories: annual reports on ICPDR activities since 1999, technical documentation (guidelines, notices, programs, reports, and the like), legal documents (conventions, agreements, declarations, memoranda), and a magazine. All publications have a common visual identity, and they are available in hardcopy and on ICPDR's website. Certainly the most interesting ICPDR publication is "Danube Watch". The objective achieved by this magazine is to promote regional cooperation and support exchange of information about sustainable water management and environmental protection in the Danube River Basin. The magazine reports on current issues and campaigns relating to the Danube River Basin, and discusses scientific topics in a straightforward and reader-friendly manner, suitable for a broad audience actively involved in the Danube River Basin. This quarterly magazine can be downloaded from ICPDR's website, where all issues to date can be retrieved.

  • Databases

ICPDR databases are very useful for assessing human impact on the environment. The ICPDR has been authorized by the Danube countries to organize data collection and processing for decision-making purposes. The Danube countries' governments use these published databases to exchange information and good practices, the scientific community uses the data for research projects, and the interested public has access to data through which they learn about the Danube environment. The databases are available online to registered users.

  • Website

ICPDR's website is at http://www.icpdr.org/main/. The current version was implemented on 29 June 20122. A new website was needed because the content of the previous version had increased to such an extent over the years that it became difficult to retrieve information. The new website is not only faster and easier to navigate, but its visual design and search tools fulfill artistic criteria. The new website was launched on Danube Day. The design and writing style of the news, notices, and other key publications are fully in line with ICPDR's corporate identity. It took nearly a year to develop the present website; ICPDR's expert group for public participation and IT specialists were involved in the task. In addition to internal website design and implementation specialists, Echonet Communication GmbH from Vienna was engaged to work on the project. They were selected after a public request for proposals, to which eight companies from four countries responded. Echonet was selected because of its vast experience in the public sector and track record in developing very useful websites that are also friendly to individuals with special needs.

There are two categories of ICPDR website visitors: professionals and the general public. These two groups have different requirements and expect different types of information when they interact with the website. Water experts, specialists, and professionals retrieve technical information, documents, and reports, whereas the general public is looking for informative and entertaining content, as well as descriptions on various activities. A thematically-arranged main dropdown menu with key topics (Danube Basin, ICPDR, key issues, activities & projects, and publications) ensures quick, straightforward and intuitive navigation of the website and retrieval of required information. Each entry is accompanied by attachments and links to related topics on the ICPDR website or other websites. There is a "light" version of the website, intended for uses with low throughput capacity, which contains shorter files that can be downloaded quickly.

Apart from information in narrative form, there is a lot of video material on the website, especially short films about key issues in the Danube River Basin and reports on conferences and technical meetings. Such materials are both informative and educational. There are also various maps (geographic, hydrographic, pollution, etc.) of the Danube River Basin, as well as many photographs.

The ICPDR website responds to the needs of different target audiences, information users, and other website visitors. It offers diverse and extensive information, from technical documents to informative and educational content for the general public. The visual appearance, organization, and content of this website reflects high standards of online communication in the field of water management and is an integral part of the communication process based on ICPDR's communication strategy and public participation approach.

  • Special events

An important segment of ICPDR activities pertains to communication and involvement of the public in water management processes, aimed to raising general awareness of citizens about co-existence in the river basin and sustainable use of water. Special events in ICPDR's communication with target audiences can be divided into those intended for professional groups and those aimed at the general public.

Communication with professional groups includes conferences attended by representatives from signatory countries of the Danube River Protection Convention and contracting parties of the ICPDR, meetings of expert groups, and the like. The ICPDR organizes and coordinates numerous activities that promote communication and public participation in the Danube countries. The most important event among them is Danube Day. To mark the tenth anniversary of the Convention on Co-operation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the River Danube, which was signed on 29 June 1994, at its 6th ordinary meeting held in 2003 in Vienna, the ICPDR initiated the launching of Danube Day in all Danube countries. The event is organized within the scope of the program "Green Danube Partnership", which involves the ICPDR, Coca-Cola Hellenic and The Coca-Cola Company.

Since signing of the Danube River Protection Convention, many efforts and ideas, but also hopes, have been built into carrying out the plan to protect the second largest European river from pollution. Cooperation between government agencies, NGOs, scientific institutions, and industry in the Danube countries has contributed to the achievement of set objectives.

The motto of the Danube Day event is to motivate the entire population of the Danube River Basin – people with different cultures and histories – to accept, despite their differences, a joint responsibility for the protection of the Danube River and to promote cultural and economic cooperation, as well cooperation for the protection of natural resources, especially water. The event seeks to improve information supply to citizens about issues related to the condition of the Danube and associated ecosystems, and to promote active involvement aimed at improving the water status of the Danube.

The proclaimed objectives of Danube Day are to:

  • Promote public participation in all matters relating to the protection and sustainable management of the Danube River Basin;
  • Raise awareness of all citizens and stakeholders that they share the same river basin and depend on each other, thus promoting "Danube solidarity";
  • Provide a platform for public communication in the Danube River Basin and ongoing water management processes;
  • Encourage actions that maintain and improve the status of ecosystems in the river basin;
  • Promote ICPDR's image and foster transparency of water management.

Danube Day guides numerous local, national, sub-basin and international (basin-wide) activities which are, although independently organized, connected across the river basin. Danube Day has its own website at http://www.danubeday.org/, which informs the public about all international and national activities related to the event. The website contains accounts of all celebrations of Danube Day to date. There are press clippings, selectively grouped by year and country. Promotional material, such as brochures, leaflets, posters, postcards and banners, can also be downloaded.

One of the key events of Danube Day is the international competition "Danube Master Art", organized by the ICPDR, contracting parties, and DEF (Danube Environmental Forum). The competition in Serbia is coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental protection (i.e. the Water Directorate). The aim is to depict the complexity of the Danube and its connection to the environment and people. Elementary school students are the target group. Their exhibits include sculptures, mosaics, collages, and similar works of art, made from natural materials collected from the Danube's riverbanks. To promote the objectives that permeate the competition, the organizers have decided to use some of the social media as communication channels, in addition to conventional media outlets and the website.

Another objective of communication through public involvement in the protection of the Danube River is education of the younger generation. In collaboration with The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola HBC, the ICPDR has designed an education toolkit called "Danube Box", intended for children in the 9-12 age group. This project was formally launched on Danube Day 2006. Its mission is to build and raise awareness among youngsters about the Danube River Basin, the diversities and similarities among the people, cultures, and histories along the Danube, and the conservation of water resources and sustainable use of the river. In this regard, the Danube Box provides not only environmental knowledge and examples, but also historical, geographic and economic facts about the Danube River Basin.

The aim of the ICPDR is for the Danube Box to mainstream the integrating factors of the Danube River Basin to the target audience. The Danube Box was designed to serve as an education toolkit, which allows monitoring of outcomes and content revisions, as needed. The toolkit comprises a teachers' handbook, a Danube River Basin poster, playing cards, and a CD with all the materials. The Danube Box was initially created in German, but was later translated into English, Hungarian, Czech, Romanian, and Bulgarian. The materials have been adapted to the countries using them. The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection/Water Directorate, The Coca Cola Company, and Coca Cola Hellenic Serbia have sponsored the translation of the toolkit into Serbian. In 2015, it was distributed to elementary schools, to be used as part of course material in grades 4 through 63.


1 Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks (EFD).
2 http://www.icpdr.org/main/icpdrorg-website-relaunch-danube-day
3 Source: Water Directorate of Serbia, http://www.rdvode.gov.rs/lat/medjunarodna-saradnja-dunav.php