From 5 to 8 December 2018, 89 participants gathered in Ecuador for the I IberoMAB Youth Forum, organized by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The event was an opportunity to discuss the role of younger generations either working, studying or living in Biosphere Reserves located in the region, which comprises Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain. It was held in the emblematic Bosques de Paz Transboundary Reserve, in the border between Ecuador and Peru.
Representing 43 Biosphere Reserves from 23 countries, the young participants engaged in debates, working groups and plenary sessions, where they were able to put forward their current challenges and proposals to increase youth participation. For instance, they expressed their desire for a more horizontal, inclusive and transparent governance in Biosphere Reserves, particularly concerning social, political, economic, educational, cultural and environmental issues. “If we want to push public policies for the youth, the youth itself must be heard and lead the process”, affirmed Rodrigo Lopez from the Mariñas Coruñesas and Terras del Mondeo Biosphere Reserve in Spain
Most of these claims are present in the Forum’s Final Declaration, which includes the official establishment of the Ibero-American and Caribbean Biosphere Reserves Youth Network, with two-stage representation: one from each Biosphere Reserve and one from each country. Their goal is to participate directly in governance bodies and in the IberoMAB Network. This Declaration was sent to the President of the IberoMAB Network and all MAB National Committees.
The 4-day event also included a Youth Fair and a Cultural Evening, where participants displayed products and projects carried out in their Biosphere Reserves, and then had the opportunity to listen and dance to traditional Ecuadorian music. An afternoon touring the Bosques de Paz Biosphere Reserve wrapped up the experience.
“I am taking home a lot of ideas and practices I heard from other fellow participants”, said Jesenia Castillo from the Yasuni in Ecuador. “When I say ‘fellow’, I truly mean it, because we could clearly see here that even though we live in different countries and different realities, we share this desire to preserve our Biosphere Reserves and create sustainable development opportunities”, she added.
The Forum was organized with the support of the governments of Ecuador and Peru, the Mancomunidad Bosque Seco, the canton Paltas and the National University of Loja. It was sponsored by the Government of Flanders of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Abertis Foundation, the Government of Spain through the Autonomous Authority for National Parks (OAPN) and the Spanish Cooperation in Ecuador, UNESCO Etxea, Itaipu Binational, the San Francisco University of Quito and the Galapagos Conservation Trust.
- Download the IberoMAB Youth Declaration in the following versions: