What is a smart mountain? How to make territories attractive, resilient, and future-oriented? This was the focus of debates at the XII European Mountain Convention in Camigliatello Silano, Italy, last 25-26-27 October 2022. The outputs of this event, summarised in the Sila Declaration, insists on the role of policies and research and innovation to support the development and future of unique and remote territories, such as mountains.
The XII European Mountain Convention, jointly organised by Euromontana– the European Association of Mountain Areas, CIA – Agricoltori Italiani, and several Italian organisations including the Region of Calabria and the Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry Policies, gathered more than 150 mountain stakeholders – from science, society and policy- from all over Europe to engage in a collective reflection on the future of the mountains.
Research and innovation can support mountain resilience
Various speakers from research projects demonstrated that both technological and social innovation could be of great benefit to address mountains’ constraints and challenges. Research and innovation can especially help mountain areas to become more attractive and resilient, by finding answers to the specific issues of each territory, such as depopulation, over tourism, remoteness and lack of connectivity, climate change etc. Enrique Nieto, Head of Policy Unit at the European Association on Information for Local Development, stressed that the Horizon Europe programme especially allows the development of projects for rural areas, such as DESIRA, MOVING and SHERPA.
Yet, all speakers agreed that research and innovation must be carried out about, for and with mountain areas, building on the knowledge of local communities and involving them in the changes to come. Through the examples of Smart Paesi – a research project notably on energy in Corsica – or the Interreg Alpine Space SmartVillages project, researchers demonstrated that a poor involvement of local communities could make an initiative fail. This is particularly the case, but not only, when researchers aim to install technological tools that are inadequately designed for the specific challenges or when the interest of the innovations has not been properly explained to the inhabitants.
The Sila Declaration stands for attractive and resilient mountains in the face of social, economic and environmental transitions
As a main outcome of the European Mountain Convention, the Sila Declaration was co-developed to give shape to the mountains of the future. Smart mountains take advantage of social and technological innovation to overcome the socio-economic and environmental challenges they are facing while creating new opportunities for themselves. They strive to be attractive and resilient territories, that better manage and adequately valuate their natural resources and ecosystem services.
To enhance mountains’ resilience, the Sila Declaration calls on the different policy levels to better take into account mountains specificities and to implement place-based approaches. It also advocates for more support to the different economic sectors, better recognition of ecosystem services, more efforts to boost innovation and further implementation of risk management strategies, among others.
In the field of research, the Sila Declaration on smart mountains calls for the identification of relevant indicators to assess the attractivity, sustainability and resilience of mountain territories and value chains and for further collaboration within mountain research projects.
Through the Declaration, Euromontana also commits to further support the Network for European Mountain Research in order to encourage interdisciplinary approaches of mountain issues and to promote the inclusion of social sciences in rural policies. The association also commits, through its network of members, to promote multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Rural Pact, to develop European projects that further explore urban-rural linkages in the mountains, and to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge through the exchange of inspiring good practice between mountain actors.
Outcomes of the XII European Mountain Convention can be consulted on the event webpage, including the event report, speaker’s presentations and the brochure of smart initiatives.