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Ten years of the European Landscape Convention. Balancing knowledge, management and awareness is possible

Mireille Deconinck
General Directorate of Territorial Planning, Housing, Heritage and Energy Wallonia Government

This autumn marks the tenth anniversary of the European Landscape Convention (ELC), representing the ideal occasion to not only describe that done but to retrace the actual progress made thus far. Signed by nearly 40 countries, the ELC has for many been the motor behind the application of an entire series of measures to respond to the commitments included within the Convention.

One of these commitments is better awareness of landscapes, all landscapes. As underscored in the ELC, "landscape is an important part of the quality of life for people everywhere: in urban areas and in the countryside, in degraded areas as well as in areas of high quality, in areas recognised as being of outstanding beauty as well as everyday areas."

The first step in the process of raising awareness about landscapes, namely identifying and qualifying them, is a long and complex task which requires multidisciplinary teams of scientists but also those managing the land and the people themselves. In this sense, it's worth remembering that the primary goal of the Convention is not to raise awareness for awareness' sake. Though this is a laudable objective, the ELC aims to contribute to landscape protection, management and planning. The knowledge garnered has to be used to carry out actions, and these actions have to be based on awareness. To achieve this, landscape actors have to be able to carry out their scientific tasks and to do so at different territorial levels, both in environments already aware of the issues at hand as well as in those areas which are not very inclined to taking them into consideration.

The dialogue between scientists and society implies a shared language (describing often complex realities in a simpler fashion), constantly teaching and using a wide array of communications tools adapted to the target audiences. Preparing technically rigorous documents which are easy to read and which can be easily put to use is an ambitious goal.

Since its creation, the Catalan Landscape Observatory's actions have been perfectly in line with this philosophy. Proof of this is its latest publication called, CatÓleg de paisatge de les Terres de Lleida ("Terres de Lleida Landscape Catalogue"). This magnificent work, co-edited with the Government of Catalonia's Ministry of Town and Country Planning and Public Works, is the first in a series of seven volumes dedicated to the seven Catalan administrative and planning divisions. Arising from the Law on protecting, managing and planning Catalan landscapes, dated June 8th, 2005, the aim of these landscape catalogues is to become effective tools to raise awareness about landscapes, their value, traits and the changes undergone in economic, social and environmental terms.

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