The governance of natural resources in an enlarged European Union is constantly confronted with new challenges. Currently, as the process of EU integration unfolds, an increase can be observed in the multiplicity of connections between different environmental issues and decisions of local, regional, national and supranational relevance. A need for a higher degree of coordination and exchange has emerged between administrative entities of different scale as well as between actors across the public/private and the expert/stakeholder divide: this has led to the establishment of new linkages, networks and platforms.

Participation represents the overarching conceptual framework capturing the many ways such coordination comes about. However, most of the available works in the field take the form of a purely theoretical discussion of political and philosophical implications or, alternatively, they are grounded in in-depth, single-level, single-case empirics. A systematic lack of consideration for multi-level aspects can be identified. Furthermore, studies are missing, that involve a plurality of cases.

The conference intends to provide a forum for these gaps to be filled: researchers and practitioners are invited to share their experiences and discuss novel approaches to natural resource governance. Contributions shall pay explicit consideration to the multi-level context and try to provide insights beyond the individual cases. Parallel sessions will cover contributions from relevant disciplines such as political science, ecology, economics, law and other disciplinary fields.

The conference encourages in particular the integration of knowledge both across disciplines and between science, policy and the public. Representing the final stage of the GoverNat project, the conference explores participatory processes for multi-level environmental governance and aims at facilitating their adoption by decision makers in an enlarged EU. The main objective is to achieve an enhanced understanding of multi-level governance of water and biodiversity in Europe: to do so, the attendants of the conference will explore and evaluate different methods of public and stakeholder participation with particular reference to the implementation of the Natura 2000 Network and of the European Water Framework Directive.

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