From 19-21 April 2006, the Regional Focal Points of the SARD-M Project (CIHEAM-IAM Bari for the Mediterranean Basin, EUROMONTANA for Europe in collaboration with UNEP-ISCC in the Carpathians, GMP-CIP in the Andes, ICIMOD in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas, and PASOLAC in Central America) gathered at FAO headquarters in Rome to discuss the progress made in the implementation of activities in their respective regions, developments on networking and collaboration, and on how the project can move forward in the future.
First interregional comparisons of SARD-M policy assessments: more commonalities than specificities
Overall, the policy assessments in most regions are in the final stages of completion and they already show potential outputs of great interest to all participants. The timeliness of these assessments in each surveyed country and at the regional level was also underlined. Approaches utilized by each of the regional focal points in conducting SARD-M policy assessments are all in line with the general spirit of the project to remain as a demand-driven and participatory project. The assessments have involved a wide range of stakeholders, including government and civil society at the centralized and decentralized levels. The variety of entry points selected for the analysis in each of the countries and regions was a clear reflection of the diversity in the problems that exist and the focus of the SARD-M Project to respond to this demand.
Despite the diverse nature of the social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts in which assessments were conducted, a large number of commonalities in terms of mountain specificities (including potentialities), policies, institutions and processes were identified between regions as well as a few regional specificities. These elements will be utilized as a starting point for the interregional analysis of commonalities and regional specificities.
From the experiences gained in the organization and implementation of regional workshops in the Carpathians and Central America, the importance of having a broad range of stakeholders participating in them was reinforced. The stakeholders should come from government and civil society at the national and sub-national levels and be involved in the design and implementation of policies. At the same time, in order to ensure wide-ranging discussions and analysis, they should not only come from the agriculture sector but also from rural development, environment, and finance as well as the private sector. As the regional workshops are an essential component of the policy assessments that help to raise awareness, define recommendations and proposals for follow-up activities, the utilization of a participatory process was deemed important.
The regional focal points also agreed on the usefulness of developing a practical guide on how to conduct a rapid assessment of SARD-M policies. This practical guide, which will become one of the concrete outputs of the project, will be developed in collaboration with the focal points and include examples of practical tools and approaches that have been developed and utilised by them during the implementation of SARD-M assessments. In addition to this guide other practical tools and guides aimed at policymakers and their staff as well as civil society organizations were envisioned as being important products that the SARD-M Project should deliver.
Strengthening of networking and collaborations between focal points and partners
The SARD-M Project has placed importance on inter-organizational collaboration and networking, both between focal points and with other partners, and this aspect has once again shown itself to be relevant; activities initiated last year made use of existing networks and excellent potentials for new areas of collaboration were also evident. For example, as a result of the work in the Carpathians, the Balkan region also expressed an interest in conducting SARD-M policy assessments. Should an official request be made, CIHEAM-IAM Bari, EUROMONTANA and UNEP Vienna/Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention have voiced their willingness to collaborate with one another through the mobilization of their networks and expertise to support policy assessment activities in the Balkans.
Towards the Third Meeting of the Adelboden Group and beyond: ensuring continuity of policy work for SARD in mountain regions
A Third Meeting of the Adelboden Group is being planned for the middle of next year to engage the Adelboden Group in the refinement and validation of the project outputs. The maintenance of a participatory process in line with the “Adelboden spirit” is considered to be essential for the relevance, promotion, dissemination and utilisation of the project outputs. The focal points will be actively collaborating in the preparations for this meeting, notably through the finalization and promotion of activities conducted in their respective regions.
By promoting the concrete outputs with the Adelboden Group and other organizations in each of the respective regions, a great opportunity was seen to raise awareness of the importance of SARD-M policy issues among governments and donor organizations at the international, regional and national levels. At the same time, the existence of base studies and concrete practical guides would also help to make a convincing case for the mobilization of partners, country-level decision makers and funding that can be invested in the implementation of follow-up activities identified. Such activities would ensure a continuity of the SARD-M policy work even after the end of the SARD-M Project.