The newly established UNESCO Chair “Biosphere and Man” will be opened at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences

In order to promote the understanding of the biosphere reserve idea in society and to strengthen the cooperation of the involved stakeholders in a more thorough realization of this concept, an internationally recognized UNESCO Chair “Biosphere and Man” has been established at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. Its opening will take place on Thursday, February 7 in Valmiera.

“The only biosphere reserve in Latvia – „North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve” – is located in Vidzeme region, and the Nature Conservation Agency (DAP) is its direct manager. Already since 2006 Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences has established a close cooperation with the managing organization of the reserve by organizing a joint international scientific conference. The long-term cooperation in the implementation of research and cooperation with local governments and entrepreneurs, as well as the awareness of the lack of understanding of the biosphere reserve in the society was the basis for the establishment of the UNESCO Chair “Biosphere and Man” at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. The Chair was approved by the UNESCO / UNITWIN Chairs Programme and a cooperation agreement was signed between Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences and UNESCO in January this year,” says Agita Līviņa, Head of the newly established Chair.

Sarmīte Pulste, Science Programme Director of the Latvian National Commission for UNESCO describes: "UNESCO Chair at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences, which will be responsible for environmental issues, will promote wider involvement of research in good biodiversity management and advance the development of the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve as a territory for sustainable development and innovation."

Rolands Auziņš, Head of DAP Vidzeme Regional Administration: “The achievement of the biosphere reserve goals requires close cooperation between the state, municipalities, non-governmental and educational institutions. The newly established Chair at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences is a vivid example of such cooperation, which will promote knowledge of the balance in preserving natural diversity, promoting economic development and preserving cultural values in the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve. ”

The opening event of the Chair will take place at the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve Advisory Council meeting with the participation of the involved institutions and municipalities operating in the territory of the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve. The opening event will feature an insight into the work done in 2018 (the results of the local population survey compared to 2007 on the local vision for territorial development and the attitudes towards sustainability, cooperation with Estonia) and the planned activities in the next four years until 2021. The activities of the Chair are aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular emphasis on:

  • Education on the concept of the biosphere reserve for the wider public, highlighting biodiversity and heritage in the development of a sustainable economy;
  • Strengthening interdisciplinarity between stakeholders, incl. researchers;
  • Involvement of the local community in maintaining the concept of the biosphere reserve.

 

The short-term goals include exploring the Biosphere reserve management models, strengthening bridges between stakeholders, developing training materials on geography, heritage, branding, visitor management in the biosphere reserve, and developing sustainable product / service ideas.

Launched in 1992, the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme, which involves over 700 institutions in 116 countries, promotes international inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. In its strategy, UNESCO considers the network of UNESCO Chairs as an important cooperation partner for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Five UNESCO Chairs have been established in Latvia. These include two Chairs at the University of Latvia for sustainable coastal development and media and information literacy issues. The Latvian Academy of Culture has established a UNESCO Chair dedicated to intangible cultural heritage rights and policies, while UNESCO Chair at Daugavpils University specializes in the field of teacher education and further education.

In 1997 the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve was established in Latvia and included in the UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve Network. The area covers 457,708 hectares of land and 17,806 hectares of sea where internationally important natural and landscape values are maintained, ensuring sustainable social and economic development. The goal of the North Vidzeme Biosphere Reserve at the national and international level is to strike a balance between protecting biodiversity, promoting economic development and preserving cultural values.