LandschappenNL has taken the initiative to set up a Landscape Observatory in the Netherlands. Two important reasons underlie this initiative. The first is the very limited and steadily diminishing attention devoted to landscape in policy. The second is the relative lack of resources available for the protection and targeted development of landscape quality.
One key objective of the Netherlands Landscape Observatory is to collect data for monitoring the current and evolving quality of the landscape. A further objective is to raise awareness of the landscape and to generate renewed attention among residents, professionals, politicians and administrators. The principles and aims of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) represent an important guideline in this endeavour.
The Landscape Observatory acts as a site that gathers data about landscapes and converts it into accessible information. It then shares this information with residents, experts, policy-makers and political decision-makers. In achieving this goal, the website is the central resource. The Netherlands Landscape Observatory intends to use this online presence to help residents and government bodies formulate questions about landscape-related policies and issues. The website shows developments in landscape on three levels: monitoring and measurements in the field, policy making of governmental bodies and signs from individuals and inhabitants.
The landscape observatory in The Netherlands stems from the European Landscape Convention (ELC), a landscape treaty conceived by the Council of Europe which is also known as the Florence Convention (2000). The observatory was therefore initiated to support the implementation of this convention in The Netherlands.
European Landscape Convention
The European Landscape Convention is the only European treaty specifically dedicated to landscape. Its main purpose is to sketch the outlines of a good European policy process, without actually designating specific landscapes at European level. Besides being a strong determinant of cultural identity at both local and European level, landscape is of great value for the economy (e.g. tourism), well-being, quality of life, ecology and the environment, while also offering social benefits. The convention extends to all landscapes: from beauty spots to ordinary sites.
As an ELC signatory, the Netherlands is obliged to give the term "landscape" legal meaning as an essential part of the human environment. Landscape policy must be conceived and implemented at all administrative levels, with a focus on protection, management and development. To facilitate the mandatory consultation with citizens, procedures must be put in place for the participation of the public as well as local and regional authorities. The next step is to integrate landscape into spatial planning, urban development, cultural, environmental, agricultural and socio-economic policies, as well as into any other policy domains that have direct or indirect influence on the landscape.
For the European Landscape Convention (ELC), “landscape observatories, centers and institutes” are crucial instruments in the development and implementation of landscape policies. They form a strong incentive to collect and exchange information, to raise awareness, and to offer a platform for public participation and training in landscape matters, which is relevant at the level of local communities and regions as much as for states.
Within the Landscape Observatory, LandschappenNL works closely with various partners in the Netherlands who are committed to the preservation and enhancement of our landscape, nature and cultural heritage. These include both research-oriented institutes and organizations active in landscape management and development. Our Dutch partners include Staatsbosbeheer, Milieufederaties (Environmental Federations), Natuurmonumenten, RCE (the Cultural Heritage Agency), Alterra research institute, the Service Network for National Landscapes. Moreover the observatory works in alignment with the State Adviser for Landscape and Water.
Internationally the Netherlands Landscape Observatory is connected with two networks associated with the European Landscape Convention. CIVILSCAPE is an international association of civil society organizations. These are non-governmental organisations (NGO) which dedicate their work to landscape protection, management and planning, according to the European Landscape Convention. In addition, as Landschapsbeheer Nederland, LandschappenNL has for many years maintained an international presence as a participant in CIVILSCAPE. The other network is UNISCAPE, the Network of Universities especially dedicated to the implementation of the European Landscape Convention. Through these networks there is a link with other observatories throughout Europe.