Leo Wasley, a member of our Biosphere Youth Forum, was selected to represent UK and Ireland Biospheres at the second UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme Youth Forum in China. He writes about his experience:
The 2019 Man and the Biosphere Youth Forum took place in the Changbaishan Biosphere in north-eastern China in mid-September.
I’ve been a member of the Isle of Man’s Biosphere Youth Forum for the past two years and I thought this event would be a great opportunity to meet other young people from Biospheres across the world, and learn from them, so I applied to take part.
I was delighted to be selected as one of two representatives for the UK, Ireland and Isle of Man biospheres, with Heather Fulton from Wester Ross Biosphere in Scotland.
The forum brought together 176 young people from 82 countries. We all had different connections to our Biospheres: we were scientists and researchers, educators, employees of not-for-profits, private sector businesses and local government.
It was really interesting getting to know people from such diverse backgrounds and learning just how varied Biospheres are: not only as homes to extraordinary people and biodiversity but also in the way that they are managed and supported by their inhabitants and institutions.
The theme of the forum was 'Committed to Biodiversity'. Over four days, members of UNESCO and the Global Youth Biodiversity Network expertly facilitated our discussions on sustainability, living in harmony with nature, and how the World Network of Biosphere Reserves and the youth within them can help respond to the environmental challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.
The aim of our discussions was to elaborate a declaration that would record the voices and opinions of young people and contribute to the development of the post-2020 biodiversity framework, which should be adopted in China next year at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
By the end of our forum, and after sharing stories and experiences from our own Biospheres and regions, we delivered our declaration at a closing ceremony attended by a number UNESCO and Chinese dignitaries.
Everyone agreed that the forum was a success. Local organisers pulled out all the stops to show us the best of their biosphere and of Chinese hospitality. We enjoyed an excursion to the peak of the volcanic Changbai mountain and Heaven Lake, which straddles the border between China and North Korea. We visited Changbaishan museum and were treated to demonstrations of Chinese intangible cultural heritage – paper-cutting, calligraphy and sugar art.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the forum was the daily cycle to the local park where our workshops and group discussion took place in the open-air.
Each of the forum participants from Europe and North America agreed to work together to keep each other updated with activity in our Biospheres and to promote youth involvement in decision-making processes.
I left the forum thoroughly enthused by the passion of young people across the world to protect and promote their biospheres and biodiversity in general.
Our shared ambition and support for Biospheres helped build strong networks and friendships that will continue within our own regions the good work we began in China.
A video of the event, featuring Leo, can be seen on the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme facebook page.