Over 300 young people from 95 countries were gathered in the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve (Italy) to take leadership in the sustainable development of their environments. They either live or work in a biosphere reserve, areas that are committed to developing solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They they participated in the 2017 MAB Youth Forum, which aimed to give them a voice in shaping the future of their territories and defining their engagement in their biosphere reserves. Ms. Markysa O’Loughlin, UNESCO St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve Public Relations Co-Ordinator represented St. Kitts and Nevis at the historical event. In speaking on her experience, she stated “Connecting with young people across so many different territories was extremely enlightening”.
She continued, “Though we differ in cultures and geographic location, we share very similar experiences”. She also remarked, “I am grateful to the UNESCO MAB ICC for supporting young people all over the world. We shared best practices, challenges and brainstormed meaningful solutions.” UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, in her message to the young participants “We are here all throughout the week, to listen to your ideas and your visions of how to work together, to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement, Page | 2 to build a better future for all”. She continued: “My only appeal to you is to be bold.
The challenges we face are big — we need to think big to overcome them, and we need to do this together, because I see partnership, truly, as the new leadership.” Creating job opportunities for young people to bring innovation to biosphere reserves and retain youth is important to the participants, who shared their priorities and needs ahead of the forum to shape the programme. In her welcome remarks, the Undersecretary of the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, Barbara Degani, highlighted the potential of sustainable tourism to create jobs.
This sector has grown by 76% last year in Italy, where 15 biosphere reserves have been established. “There is a need to diversify and create new services”, she continued. “In this process young people can make a difference, for example through digital tools and social media. We have great expectations for the forum’s outcomes about this topic. We know that it is a challenge, but it should be faced without fear.” Other priorities include youth engagement in civil society, and the links between research and management practices.
The young people exchange ideas and experiences on how communities can sustainably interact with their land and nature, creating jobs and livelihoods without endangering the environment and natural resources, taking advantage of green economy opportunities, strengthening resilience to climate change, and sharing responsibilities and benefits among all people involved. The youth representatives were warmly welcomed by the local community of the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve and representatives of the Veneto and Emilia Romagna regional governments. More than 25 young volunteers from the Po Delta and other parts of Italy are helping the organizers in making the forum possible.
The forum is organized by UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere programme (MAB), UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe based in Venice and the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve, under the auspices of the Italian Ministries of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea; of Foreign Affairs; of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism; and of Education, Universities and Research. It counts with the support of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo, the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna Regional Governments and the PiùInForma association.
The forum is organized as part of UNESCO’s efforts to ensure that young women and men are engaged in policies and programmes affecting them, and lead action to promote peace and sustainable development in their countries and communities. It is the first MAB Youth Forum. A delegation will come to Paris in October 2017 to present the main outcomes of this meeting to the participants of the UNESCO Youth Forum.
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