Danube Watch 1/2021 - Time for the Public of the Danube River Basin to…


Time for the Public of the Danube River Basin to…

Public Consultation Continues on the ICPDR’s two 2021 Management Plan Updates

a body of water

Why Public Consultation?

  It’s a legal requirement of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) and
Floods Directive (FD).

   Both the DRBMP and DFRMP
lie at the core of the ICPDR's central work programs – so they really should be developed with strong involvement of civil society and stakeholders from the beginning.

As an international institution,
we support stakeholder and public involvement at all possible levels.

“This action was
made possible wby funding provdied by the LIFE Programme
of the EU. The LIFE Programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action created in 1992. As members of the LIFE family of the European Commission – and under LIFE's 2019 preparatory programme –
the ICPDR is able to develop and disseminate the DRBMP & DFRMP Updates 2021.”

Every six years, the ICPDR undertakes one of its most important tasks:

redrafting its management plans. Two extremely important documents get drafted and made available to the public, with the ICPDR offering a variety of opportunities for the Danubian public to make their contributions and comments throughout the year. Here in 2021, the ICPDR finds itself right in the middle of this very vital process, as we rework both the Danube River Basin Management Plan (DRBMP) and Danube Flood Risk Management Plan (DFRMP) for their respective 2021 updates.

The outcomes of this Public Consultation process will go towards guiding all of the work the ICPDR undertakes throughout the Danube River Basin for the next six years – before coming up for review once again in 2027. While the ICPDR is passionate about supporting the active involvement of stakeholders and civil society every single day, this process truly marks the most direct and powerful part of the ICPDR’s public participation programme. It’s also indicative of the ambitious new approach being prioritized by organisations working with the EU’s Water Framework and Floods Directives, seeking to evolve the policy process in Europe towards an increasingly transparent and publicly-led form, ready for the era of the European Green Deal.

The most basic and standardized side of our Public Consultation Process sees partners, observers, and interested members of the public simply sending us their comments on the draft text of both the DRBMP and DFRMP Updates 2021, either as an email to jsq-sq@vpcqe.betgro.rdpci@df-dfw or by addressing their written comments in the post to the ICPDR Secretariat in Vienna. The name of the communications game in 2021 however, is most definitely about providing more channels and more chances to reach the Danubian public – not to mention for them to reach out to us!

In the six years since the last Public Consultation process for ICPDR management plan updates, the variety of channels and sheer potential of public participation has gone through a great deal of change. For starters, the ICPDR launched its own social media presence in November of 2018, ushering in an altogether new era for our organisation. These new digital channels have meant engaging in dialogue and interactions with a wider public audience than ever before, and constantly disseminating key information among all members of the internal ICPDR family throughout the Danube River Basin. It has meant bringing our Basin closer together, and closing the communication gaps throughout the region, Black Forest to Black Sea. Essentially, it has meant being able to strengthen our understanding of common interests throughout the Danube River Basin, and how the citizens of the Danube want to move forward together into a bold new (and green) future where fresh solutions to lingering questions have to be found, together.

While social media alone already greatly improves the potential reach and impact of this Public Consultation Process, the process has been ‘going digital’ in more ways than one this time around. Building upon a process began in 2015, the ICPDR is hosting an extensive and educational online questionnaire as part of the process, gathering vital opinions about plans and enabling the people of the Danube to #HaveTheirSay, even when they can’t attend a workshop, send a detailed letter, or even read the full text of the draft plans. This online questionnaire has already received hundreds of responses since going online in March of 2021, and thanks to the efforts of the entire ICPDR family throughout the Danube River Basin, has been made available in 10 different Danubian languages (in addition to our working language of English).

The continued evolution of this online questionnaire also saw the plans brought together under one questionnaire (previous years saw two separate DRBMP/DFRMP questionnaires distributed, which was deemed less effective this time around). Combining these two was the next logical step, especially given the synergies between the two EU directives behind the two plans, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Floods Directive (FD), as was to bring the questionnaire into a more informative and educational focus in 2021. This has meant favouring feedback regarding public satisfaction with the work over more complicated and open-ended questions, all designed to locate gaps and work out the extent to which the public are pleased with the direction in which we at the ICPDR are headed.

Last, but by no means least, the ICPDR hosts a workshop as part of the Consultation Process. It’s a unique way for us to get engaged directly with the public and stakeholders throughout the basin, and one of the major highlights of the ICPDR’s six-year management cycle. The event proved a special challenge in 2021 too, considering the limitations put upon all our events in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find out more about the challenges, successes, and outcomes of our tremendous 2021 Public Consultation Workshop – Our Opinion–Our Danube – on pages 8 to 10 of this issue of Danube Watch.

The next steps after this multi-channel, multi-pronged, and multi-faceted Public Consultation Process see our experts taking every single comment into account as they review and finalise the text of both the Danube River Basin Management Plan and Danube Flood Risk Management Plan Updates by the end of this year. In a year of unprecedented floods and extreme weather events in Europe, at a time when international cooperation across the continent has faced its biggest ever challenge in the form of a pandemic, and at a moment when private-public sector innovations are changing the outlook for a new and greener Europe, these plans are more important than ever before. We at the ICPDR remain proud of our ability to work with a huge range of partners, and to bring together the shared concerns of our members, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. Though still far from over, our 2021 Public Consultation Process already ranks as the most effective and far-reaching in our history.

Hélène Masliah-Gilkarov
is the ICPDR's Technical Expert for Public Participation & Communication and Executive Editor of Danube Watch