Over 650 Biosphere Reserves (BRs) worldwide are challenged by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB) to develop innovative strategies to encourage sustainable development. The establishment of an International Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities (ICSRC) was proposed to the October 2013 meeting of UNESCO BRs from 36 countries from Europe and North America, known as the EuroMAB Group, held in Brockville, Ontario. The proponents of the project were the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association (CBRA) representing the then 16 Canadian Biosphere Reserves (now 18), Queen’s University, and the Aquatarium. The 200 delegates unanimously endorsed the proposal to form an international EuroMAB Working Group to advance the project, and named Gary Clarke of CBRA and Andrew Bell of North Devon Biosphere Reserve as co-chairs of the Working Group.
The ICSRC would contribute to the EuroMAB Mission and Vision by providing “a platform for the sharing of knowledge, know-how, and experience on sustainable development, and a collective tool for the support of sustainable development practices amongst the various players of the 36 member states of EuroMAB”.
At EuroMAB 2015 in Estonia, delegates were asked to respond to a survey to put in order of priority the proposed functions of the Centre.
In November 2016, the EuroMAB Working Group met over three days to advance the ideas for the project. A separate group met on a different occasion to explore issues related to Freshwater, as a result of a local economic priority to invest in a Freshwater Institute, and explored whether the ICSRC might fulfill some of that role.
The ICSRC will contribute to the EuroMAB Mission and Vision by providing a platform for the sharing of knowledge, know-how, and experience on sustainable development, and a collective tool for the support of sustainable development practices amongst the various players of the 36 member states of EuroMAB. The ICSRCs objectives and outcomes are:
- A collective Centre for the support of sustainable development practices amongst the various players of the 36 member states of the UNESCO EuroMAB network.
- Recognition, recording and application of Indigenous, traditional and scientific knowledge to produce innovative solutions for the challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and sustainable development.
- Dialogue, research and education to inspire and inform community leaders and the general public about pathways to achieving thriving rural communities.
- An inclusive governance system recognizing the diverse sources of knowledge and ways of knowing.
- A physical and virtual hub for achieving the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere program Lima 2016 strategic objectives, focusing on rural communities.
Mission and Vision
Our mission is to become an international centre of innovation to find creative, innovative, and effective ways for people and nature to thrive together in rural communities. By linking Indigenous and traditional knowledge from rural communities with modern science, facilitating networking among EuroMAB partners, promoting innovation and leveraging funds and resources, we will generate solutions to pressing local, regional, national and global challenges.
Our vision is a world in which thriving, inclusive and healthy rural communities are recognized as integral to a sustainable future for all.
The ICSRCs activities will be guided by the Lima Action Plan for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program and its World Network of Biosphere Reserves (2016-2025). The high level objectives endorsed for the MAB program at the World Congress of Biosphere Reserves held in Lima, Peru, in March 2016 are to:
- Conserve biodiversity, restore and enhance ecosystem services, and foster the sustainable use of natural resources
- Contribute to building sustainable, healthy and equitable societies, economies and thriving human settlements in harmony with the biosphere
- Facilitate biodiversity and sustainability science, education for sustainable development and capacity building
- Support mitigation and adaptation to climate change and other aspects of global environmental change
The ICSRC will be located in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territories. These Indigenous peoples have been practicing rural sustainability for thousands of years and will significantly influence the way forward. With gratitude and respect we acknowledge the significant contributions Indigenous peoples have, and continue to make, on these lands.
Brockville is midway between Toronto and Montreal and an hour south of the nation’s capital Ottawa. Over 11 million people live within a 3-hour radius. It is on the major east-west highway and rail corridor running through Ontario, one hour from the closest international airport, and 20 minutes drive to either of two bridges linking Canada and the US.
Brockville (population 22,000) is the largest municipality within the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, designated as a biosphere reserve in 2002. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere is a member of the UNESCO EuroMAB network of biosphere reserves, and hosted the EuroMAB 2013 conference in Brockville. Brockville is also located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and the ICSRC would therefore be ideally located to research, educate, and inspire people about freshwater issues in relation to sustainable development, biodiversity and climate change. The St. Lawrence River is the outflow for the entire Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the world’s freshwater, and is one of the largest rivers in the world by discharge, discharging 12,000 cubic meters of water per second.