According to the WWF, the global extinction of species has reached a new high: In 2017, 25,800 animal and plant species are considered to be threatened. Protecting the environment and biodiversity is therefore more important than ever. The cornerstone of biodiversity conservation in Europe is the Natura 2000 network, which covers over 27,000 protected areas and nearly 20 percent of the European Union (EU) area.
In 2014, the European Commission launched the Natura 2000 Award in order to honour innovative projects that manage Natura 2000 sites. adelphi has been commissioned to organize the competition. In addition to prizes in the categories of nature conservation, communication, socio-economic benefits, cross-border cooperation and networking, and balancing different interests / perspectives, the Natura 2000 Citizens' Award has also been awarded by an online vote since 2015.
European citizens can vote online for one of the 25 finalists until 22 April 2018. The winner of the “European Citizens’ Award,“ along with the winners of the other categories, will be honoured on 17 May 2018 at a high-level award ceremony in Brussels.
In our interview, Marion Jay, who manages the Award at adelphi, explains the goals of the European Natura 2000 Award and explains what constitutes a successful conservation project.
What's behind the Natura 2000 Award?
Marion Jay: The importance of the Natura 2000 network as a key tool to implementing the EU nature conservation directives was reaffirmed in the 2017 Action Plan for People, Nature and the Economy. The issue remains that Natura 2000 – the largest coordinated protected area network in the world – is still little known to the public. Since 2014, the Natura 2000 Award has helped raise awareness of the Natura 2000 network. The awards also recognise and promote successful approaches to nature and biodiversity conservation. The selected projects should inspire others and promote learning from both sides.
"The selected projects should inspire others"
What is special about the selection of projects from this year?
Marion Jay: Never before have so many different countries participated in the award! 27 of the 28 Member States are present this year, including countries that have barely been a part of the award until now, such as Denmark, Slovenia and Malta. Or the Czech Republic: In the last round in 2016, not a single organization from the Czech Republic submitted an application, this year five have. The fact that we are now reaching a wide geographic range is a great success. Natura 2000 is a European network, but this network thrives on committed people and what they can do locally!
What makes a winning project?
Marion Jay: Protecting the environment and biodiversity is a task that can only be tackled together. The success of projects therefore depends largely on the extent to which stakeholders are involved in the implementation. It is only when stakeholders from forest owners, farmers, hunters, NGOs, and administrations all the way to companies act together that real progress can be made. The category "Balancing Different Interests / Views" takes this into account. In principle, a cross-sectoral approach is the criterion for success for all projects. In addition, a project should be able to clearly communicate its results while telling a positive and interesting story. Important tips on this can be found in our Benchmarking Reports. Each year, we evaluate the projects that have applied. In this way, we have made available tips and lessons learned from successful projects not just to the Natura 2000 community, but to all other conservation projects.
How does online voting work? And why should I join?
Marion Jay: The Natura 2000 Award website provides information on all the finalists. Next to each entry is a button to vote. Everyone has only one vote. But every vote counts! Every vote for one of the finalists is also a vote for nature conservation! Those who participate acknowledge the dedication of the many committed people who support conservation and biodiversity all over Europe. The more people participate, the greater the awareness of their work. Therefore: Vote and share your favorite project. And if you do not yet have one, this is your chance to get to know lots of exciting ideas and innovative approaches!