User Council Establishment Guide

29. Aug 2023.

As part of the "Together for the Environment" project, Young Researchers of Serbia have developed the User Council Establishment Guide for protected areas in Serbia. The guide is intended for managers who aim to improve the overall condition of a protected area by involving a broader composition of citizens and stakeholders with a shared interest in creating an environment that concerns and is cared for by all.

The Nature Protection Law mandates the formation of councils in all protected areas, promoting the connection between the managers of protected areas and local communities in the protection and sustainable use of natural values and resources. This is done while respecting the interests of the local population and other users of the protected area. National parks are legally obligated to form User Councils, and the establishment of this mechanism is an important recommendation for all protected areas.

To support the formation of User Councils in protected areas, Young Researchers of Serbia have created the User Council Establishment Guide. This guide outlines the framework of legally prescribed measures, provides explanations of the User Council's role, outlines the steps towards establishment, shares practical experiences, and offers guidelines for operation.

One of the User Council's roles is to effectively bring together various institutions, organizations, entrepreneurs, citizen associations, and all those living and working in the protected area or its immediate surroundings. It aims to facilitate better understanding of the needs of all these stakeholders, assist in balancing strict protection rules with economic priorities, thus mitigating misunderstandings, increasing transparency and efficiency in work and communication, and deepening the sense of unity.

The guide serves as a framework for managers of protected areas. For additional support, considering the specificities of certain areas, such as the capacities and needs of managers, the project team also provides consultations to understand relevant legal regulations, assistance in identifying key stakeholders, organizing the inaugural meeting of the User Council, as well as support in later planning of the Council's work, Action Plan development, and everything necessary for the efficient functioning of the Council.

The "Together for the Environment" project will support the establishment of User Councils in at least 10 protected areasserving as a model for initiating similar processes in Serbia. User Councils will increase the transparency of managing protected areas and enable the participation of local communities (citizens, small businesses, farmers, and other users) in decisions regarding the management of protected areas.

The complete guide is available here.