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Interview Details

Interview with Irina Comardicea

  • Project Manager, Adelphi
  • Dated: Monday, July 11th 2011
  • EWP: In 2007, the AWARE project started, a European project about how to achieve sustainable water ecosystems management connecting research, people and policy makers in Europe. Could you briefly explain the project’s approach?

    Irina Comardicea: That’s right: AWARE is connecting people for better water management and focuses on human-caused deterioration of coastal water ecosystems (eutrophication in particular). The project, which is funded under the 7th Framework Programme, engages scientists, policy makers and the public in jointly creating and analyzing scenarios for improved water management in coastal areas.

    The key to AWARE is in fact the participatory approach: it develops further the concept of integrated adaptive ecosystem management, by creating an active role for public participation. This strengthens the consultations between local residents, research and policy communities and facilitates common strategies.

    The project implements this approach in three case studies: the coastal waters of the Gulf of Riga (Estonia and Latvia); the Seine, Somme, and Schelder river basins and the Southern North Sea coastal zone (France and Belgium); and the Po river Delta and Goro lagoon (Italy).

    EWP: From your point of view, why is the Science-Policy Interface in the water sector still lacking? Is this lack in the water sector bigger than in others?  

    Irina Comardicea: Perhaps the key reasons for this gap lie in some intrinsic differences between the policy and the science communities. Both use specific ‘languages’, which often are difficult to understand for others outside the community. The timelines are also very different between them, as the science community generally takes a long-term perspective in approaching challenges as well as solutions, while the policy community works under a more short-term needs-based framework. A further difference may be in dealing with uncertainty: while scientific results often underline uncertainties, policy makers need certainty in decision-making.ntific results often underline

    The Science-Policy Interface is of course not only lacking in the water, but also in other sectors. In addressing environmental problems however, it is becoming clear that a fully integrated, multi-disciplinary interaction between scientific developments and implementation into policy is needed to solve the problems.

    EWP: Which measures does the AWARE project consider as crucial in order to bring research, citizens and policy makers closer together? Do you already have any empirical results if these measures have the expected effect?   

    Irina Comardicea: The AWARE project posited that an improved integration of science into policy processes could be achieved by looking more broadly at science in society – specifically by including non-expert citizens into a process of assessing scientific evidence and making recommendations for policy.

    One of the most crucial elements of this was to start with randomly selected citizen panels from each of the three case studies. However, the success of the project was assured thereafter through the motivation of the participating citizens and the work done by all project partners: the scientists involved worked tirelessly together with the citizens to share case-specific knowledge, the facilitators helped make workshops into interactive knowledge brokerage experiences, and all partners helped to broaden AWARE’s impact by involving a variety of local and international experts in project activities.

    The thirty citizens involved in AWARE have together produced a common Declaration, which proposes several recommendations for better coastal water management. This is in addition to three Declarations that were produced for each of the project’s case studies, which contain more site-specific recommendations and suggestions. On our website you can download this clear, insightful, and optimistic document ( Further results will also be available online in due course, from interviews taken with water management experts, and from the evaluation of the participatory process in AWARE.


    EWP: What are the next project steps?    

    Irina Comardicea: An expert workshop will take place on 20 October at the European Parliament in Brussels. The workshop is entitled “Participatory approaches in the European water sector: Evaluation of the potential for improving water management” and will bring a diverse group of policy makers from regional, national, and European levels together with evaluation experts. The goal of the workshop is to discuss the opportunities and drawbacks of participatory approaches, and will allow water managers to share their experiences in implementing measures related to the Water Framework Directive.r managers to share their experiences in implementing measures

    EWP: With reference to the Water Vision for Europe, which of the articles do you regard as the most important ones? And where do you see the challenges to achieve it (To read the Water Vision for Europe, please click here).     

    Irina Comardicea: While all represent an ambitious and motivating call for action, article four of the Water Vision for Europe is the one that perhaps most resonates with the AWARE project. The statement “well informed people use their freedom of choice wisely” is echoed by the AWARE Citizen Declaration when they call for greater awareness and education of not only the environmental challenges faced by coastal zones, but also about the social, environmental, and economic impacts of potential solutions to these challenges.

    Achieving this vision will take a lot of concerted effort, but what has become clear throughout the AWARE process is that engaging a wider base of affected and interested actors around clear and understandable issues yields more diverse and creative solutions and at the very least increases the commitment of those actors to implementing potentially difficult but needed solutions.

    EWP: Thank you for the interview.

  • Irina Comardicea
  • Project Manager, Adelphi
  • Irina Comardicea works as a Project Manager for Adelphi, a leading think tank for policy analysis and strategy consulting. Her focus has been on visual communication of various outcomes to the public. She contributed to an exhibition showcasing UNEP's post-conflict and disaster management division, and is currently involved in the AWARE project, funded under the 7th Research Framework Program. In May 2008, Ms. Comardicea received a Master of Arts in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, California. During these studies her research focused on environmental peace building, conflict transformation, and gender and development.
"Multi-disciplinary interaction between scientific developments and implementation into policy is needed."

- Irina Comardicea
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