CHARTER OF THE VILLAGES
A statement of what we believe
In 1996, when Copenhagen was the Cultural Capital of Europe, the Danish village of Tommerup proclaimed itself to be the Cultural Village of Europe. In 1999 Wijk aan Zee did the same thing, after years of being overlooked. Wijk aan Zee then connected internationally with villages in 11 European countries. All the villages felt it was important to continue this initiative and asked the French village of Mellionnec to be the Cultural Village of Europe in the year 2000. Together they wanted to show Europe does not consist of cities only: there are villages as well.
Every human being has a world of his own. He is an individual. Every human being has a father and a mother, his family, even when he does not know them. Every human being has an environment in which he grows up and which he gets to know well. This is his territory. And all these worlds within a larger world we call a community, or province, a region or a state or Europe or 'the' world.
The village is an old tried and true form of a human's territory. It is his ‘known world’. Not only the things, but the people as well are familiar there. No matter how much the world changes, what technologies are developed, there will always be a difference between the familiar world and the less-known world. In this way cities and villages will not grow together.
We often speak of people ‘losing their roots’, and there are many examples. Politics has worked hard to promote the larger community -- this ‘unknown world’. But that has resulted in a loss of attention for the village which has a more informal structure. This has led to indifference in villages which no longer see themselves as responsible and leave the responsibility for local problems to the higher government.
Many villages have adapted to urban development and the urban lifestyle to survive and have thus given up their own identity. They have become quiet and settled residential areas for the larger city.
The world as seen from the village.
The city culture is a culture of services. In the village it is the people who are the key. In a world "without borders" and with large scale urbanization, a human being needs his own place. Where everything is big and similar in form alienation and displacement can arise. If village communities are dealt with respectfully the displacement need not have as severe consequences as it does now and the village will feel stronger and more prosperous.
In a village there is always a great deal of knowledge about the local environment. Inhabitants feel involved in its development. Maintaining the quality of the living-environment is a collective responsibility.
The special thing about village culture is that it isn't aimed towards the product but towards the creation process.
‘Culture ‘in cities is a product people primarily experience individually. In a village culture is connected with social elements. People do it together.
It is important to focus on the small independent entrepreneur, who does not make a huge profit but who is often a very important support of the village culture and social cohesion.
It is also important to focus on the cultural heritage of the village which reflects the history of the village and defines its identity. People should be proud of their cultural roots which are a treasure for the next generations. The international exchange of ideas should be encouraged.
Villagers are capable of solving problems among themselves and use the judicial system only as a last resort. Those who hope to find justice in a court should take into account that it could potentially cause a rupture in the social structure of the village.
Informal abilities like improvisation and commitment are of great importance to the village. Results count more than form. A village can easily get into conflict with higher levels of government which cannot deal with this.
Hospitality is another true characteristic of village life. In a village even the stranger has an identity and interpersonal contact is possible.
How the world should view villages.
1. Village economy.
The small independent entrepreneur needs a boost. He is not only important for employment, but also for the social structure of the village. Villages need an adequate level of services to for the needs of the inhabitants.
2. Food production.
The farmer and horticulturalist have been important people in the village and the country since ancient times. They are people who grow food at the top of the food chain. Now many of them are leaving the countryside or just quitting. We need recognition of the fact that good farmers and horticulturalists are necessary for good food and not just as 'economic structures'.
3. Village culture.
Experiencing village culture does not have to be too expensive. Volunteers offering accommodation in the form of home visits is important. If there is no accommodation, the village government may need to step in and help. Think outside the box.
4. Village planning.
There are sometimes problems with builders who want to put up buildings which don’t fit well with the villagers. The scale of the existing buildings together with the surrounding environment determines the look of the village. Building and environmental policy are still treated too much as separate subjects.
5. Village democracy.
National political parties usually are not involved in village democracy. The boundaries they set can also obstruct solutions in the village. Community and provincial, national and supranational governments should spend time developing policy to deal with this phenomenon adequately. Political choices in a village are very tightly connected to personal responsibility and involvement of the inhabitants.
6. Village society.
In a village problems and solutions have faces. People are not divided into categories like consumers, participants in traffic, single people, the needy etc. In a village there are no abstract problems and ideas, but problems and ideas of and about people. Social cohesion - elsewhere supported by policy - occurs naturally in a village. Policy and government support have to take these natural occurrences into account as well.
7. Village and nature.
Nature develops slowly, much slower than human activities. It's urgently necessary to take measurements to protect and preserve nature and to uphold biological diversity.
8. Village and world.
Large scale developments cannot always be avoided in the villages. They will be affected by the consequences of the large scale infrastructural regulations for traffic, industry etc. Village interests are not subject but equal to other interests of society and deserve careful consideration. Using the NIMBY-argument is a denial of this basic tenet.