- Saad BENAMAR - Director of the Laboratory of Environmental, Plant and Urban Sciences - University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah - Fez (Morocco)
- Iakovos GANOULIS - Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Director of Water - Greece
- Abdoulaye SENE - Executive Secretary and Co-Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the organization of the 9th World Water Forum - Dakar 2021
- Khatim KHERRAZ - Executive Secretary, Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS)
- Yamna DJELLOULI - Biologist, Professor Emeritus of the University of Le Mans - Researcher in the Joint Research Unit "Space and Society" of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) - France
- Lansana FOFANA - High Commissioner - Organization for the Development of the Gambia River (OMVG) - Guinea
- Alejandro ROGRIGUEZ-MARTINEZ - Water Commissioner of the Confederación Hidrográfica del Guadalquivir (CHG) - Spain
- Moustapha CONGO - Permanent Secretary of the Action Plan for Integrated Water Resources Management - Ministry of Water and Sanitation - Burkina-Faso
- Jeannette PRETOT - President of the Water Embassy, Vice-President of the Seine-Normandy Basin Committee - France
Director of ELY-Center of Lapland*- Finland, President of Euro-INBO for 2019-2020
According to you in what way EURO-INBO is an important network at european and international scales?
As waters are usually shared by different states, from that perspective we need to cooperate, we need to address the question that way.
There is no other way than networking. We need cooperation when we deal with water issue.
Since the beginning of the Conference, I have noticed that cooperation and coordination in one country or between different countries is not very easy. Each country or region works with specific standards. How INBO could help in a better cooperation based on more closed standards?
The first step is to share information about the different ways of working in different states. After that we would have a better understanding and we will be able to step forward.
As INBO is an organization for networking, we have the option to create a kind of platform to discuss about those differences and then may be able to make some recommendations and may be help on how we could overcome those obstacles, on how those differences are created. We have a good example in northern Finland, but I think it happens everywhere, where legislation is different between states.
Cooperation is like creating common plans on legislation and regulation. On EU level we should harmonize further our plans on legislation and regulation. It would be very helpful in cooperation.
During your presidency of EURO-INBO, on which topics are you going to focus?
For me, it is quite obvious and easy to focus on transboundary water. It’s a field where I have a lot of experience and I think that the model we have in Finland on transboundary water issues is a model which could be relevant to share with other counties. We could even try to use it in other places or countries.
Could you describe this model?
We have created agreements between different states in the northern zone of Finland, closed to Russia, and especially with Sweden and Norway.
We have given power to the local level. The people who represent Finland in the Commissions with Sweden and Norway are coming from local communities, local municipalities. We send local people and local engineers.
On my point of view, it is extremely important to have local communities involved when we are working on water issues. They have a lot of experience in environment and water issues. They are the stakeholders who do actions on the field and they are those who can make water status change.
I repeat it, it is very important to have them involved in transboundary waters.
What are your methods to get stakeholders involved in a same project?
It is simple! We all know that when we make projects or actions, if we have local representatives it is easier for the people who live in this areas to have their own input in those actions and a shared understanding of what is needed, but also what kind of restrictions we can have. It is close to them.
If the decisions are coming from the Capital, it is easy to create an opposition because it is far away. What is decided locally creates a common commitment.
Finland and other countries from the north of Europe are well-known for a specificity in their culture, the awareness on common issues and general interest practices. It is not the case of other countries. How could you help in spreading this cultural specificity?
It is a very interesting question but it is difficult to answer!
The way we are acting collectively in Finland, is natural and part of our culture, like voluntary work. Maybe we haven’t thought of our system so much! But may be one issue could be that, even if we have an administrative structure, ministries, regional and local levels, in our administrative system, hierarchy is not very strong and all the levels are cooperating well.
When local people know that they can act, that they have a power, it is easier to get them involved in concrete actions and planning. It is true that in Finland we have a lot of volunteers. But it is more difficult nowadays because people have less time and it is true that it is difficult to mobilize when people don’t get rewarded with money for their actions!
It is a challenge for the contemporary society everywhere in the world.
Could you explain why did you choose the city of Lahti* to organize the EURO-INBO Conference (17-20 June 2019)?
*: On June 20 2019, the European Commission has awarded the European Green Capital Award for 2021 to the Finnish city of Lahti.
We chose Lahti because of the lake Vesijärvi and what happened in the past few years.
I have personally experienced the situation. During my childhood, in the 70’s, the lake was in a very bad state. It was heavily polluted by industrial emissions.
Now, it is a place of recreation for families and tourists. We can swim, navigate, fish. It is a good example on how you can improve water quality, if you really want to do it. You need to put human and financial resources and you need to be eager to work on the issue.
It is a good positive example of the issues we are dealing with in INBO network.
At EU level, we have just elected a new Parliament. How a network like INBO could help the MPs to get aware of the different issues we discuss during the conference. What role could INBO play?
The final Declaration of the EURO-INBO Conference expresses the common will we have in this Conference. The recommendations it contains should be delivered to our Parliament Members.
INBO could help in turning those recommendations into actions by the politicians who are representing us in the EU Commission.
Do you think it is the role of the different members of INBO to address their own deputies for example?
There are may be 2 ways. One could be each member addresses the deputies of their own country but INBO, as an organization, could deliver the message too. Acting both ways could be more effective.
This issue is one I would like to work on but before, I have to discuss it with the stakeholders of INBO.
I need to think on the relevant way to act as a President.
*The ELY-Centers or Centers for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment are responsible for the regional implementation and development tasks of the central government, in Finland.
Interview conducted during the EUROPE-INBO 2019 Conference - From 17 to 20 June 2019 in Lahti (Finland) - © RIOB 2019