Main Conference Outcome
The main conference outcome was the launch of the Youth Manifesto which inspired a wide range of activities to be taken forward by various National Parks and protected areas in Europe. This legacy includes a commitment to review the Youth Manifesto and any progress made at future EUROPARC conferences and to involve youth delegates as much as possible. In addition, out of the workshops, a list of outcomes has resulted in shared best practice, new partnerships and stronger networks.
Cairngorms National Park Authority - conference host
The conference host benefited from raising the profile of the Cairngorms National Park across Europe, the UK and Scotland, as well as with local and national politicians. Press and social media coverage included:
- Scottish national TV and radio
- international, national, regional and local press
- 256 posts to facebook, twitter and instagram
- 269,649 accounts reached
- 10,463 engagements with an engagement rate of 4%
The conference also helped to strengthen the Cairngorms National Park Authority's working relationship with its partners who offered their support as sponsors, speakers, workshop leads, field trip hosts and by providing complimentary local produce in the evenings.
In addition, the experience of hosting the event meant all CNPA staff worked together, particularly during the conference itself, which has resulted in a lasting team spirit and connection across the whole organisation. All CNPA board and staff members were invited to attend the conference and those who were actively involved in supporting it thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
General Assembly and Opening Session
The Conference opened with an exclusive event for EUROPARC members, the General Assembly 2018, in which participants were presented with the annual reports of the Federation and the latest updates on project developments. During the sessions, a special recognition to long-serving members of the EUROPARC Federation was give to the Environmental Agency of Ireland and the North York Moors National Park Authority. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between EUROPARC Federation and the European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS) was a key part of the General Assembly.
Cassie Scott, a young and courageous person, opened the conference by telling her personal story. She told 600 delegates how she changed her life from being involved with drugs, alcohol and physical abuse from her partner, to being self-confident, happy and working as a mentor for others.
Cassie transformed her life, with the help of The Venture Trust, through her experiences with nature and the outdoors. Her story clearly illustrated how important our connection with the natural world is for our well-being - especially those of us living in difficult circumstances.
Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment including National Parks, opened the conference.
It is so important we not only engage with young people but that we give young people across Europe the lead on this and consider the best ways to engage and work with them. What are we protecting areas like this for if not for future generations and who should we be listening to if not young people in developing the kind of place they want to live in, work in and visit in the future.
Launching the Youth Manifesto, John Swinney - Deputy First Minister for Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills - challenged delegates to take action.
This is a great first step but that is all it is. The challenge to us all is how will we deliver the aspirations in the manifesto? When you get back to your own National Park, protected area or organisation, what are you going to do to implement it? Words are easy, actions are always more difficult. I can announce that the Cairngorms National Park Authority is going to establish a Youth Council for the Park with support from the Cairngorms LEADER programme. This will be run by and for young people and will have an annual budget to help deliver the vision of the young people that are part of it.
Richard Louv is a bestselling author who sparked an international debate and movement to reconnect children and nature. His work inspires people of all ages to talk about the importance of nature in our lives and how direct exposure to nature is essential for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.
His presentation focused on why we need a new nature movement to respond to climate change, biodiversity change, biodiversity collapse, and the disconnect of children from nature - the greatest environmental challenges of our time.
Hendrikus van Hensbergen is a young conservationist who believes all young people should feel moved and empowered to protect the natural world. He founded Action for Conservation with a mission to bring the magic of nature into young people's lives and inspire a youth movement committed to conservation and the earth.
His presentation shared how his work engages young people from diverse backgrounds, between the ages of 12 and 18, in conservation and the natural world and to build the next generation of conservationists.
Karen Keenleyside is co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature #NatureForAll initiative and Senior Adviser for #NatureForAll, Parks Canada.
An ecologist by training, Karen's presentation looked at bridging natural and social-scientific disciplines to identify evidence based solutions for building constituencies of support for conservation and protected areas into the future.
Through the #NatureForAll playbook strategic guidance on environmental management, ecological restoration, climate change, and connecting people with nature are made available to increase support and actions for nature conservation globally.
The playbook considers how we can connect people with nature in ways that lead them to take action to protect it particularly new audiences with nature - whether that be youth, young families, or others who for whatever reason are facing barriers to experiencing and connecting with nature. It also presents evidence around which types of experiences are most likely to lead to that sense of love or connectedness.
The Cairngorms National Park is one of Europe's largest national parks, with unique land ownership and management. It has more high level mountain ground than anywhere else in Britain or Ireland - with almost half of the Park considered wild land - the largest Caledonian forest and some of the UK's purest rivers. It's also home to 25% of the UK's endangered species. Over 18,000 people live and work here, and over 1.8 million people visit each year to enjoy the breathtaking landscape, history and culture, thriving communities and outdoor activities.
Young people just want to be heard and entrusted to help protect and conserve their local environments. We want to be involved in helping to make thriving, sustainable communities with training and job opportunities so that we can remain in our local areas and not lose touch with our cultural heritage. This Manifesto must be the catalyst to making that happen in Scotland and across Europe.
Laura Peters, Youth+ representative on the EUROPARC Council
The Manifesto sets out four areas for action and puts out a call for change in all rural communities and protected areas:
- Youth Empowerment
All young people have creativity and imagination, and these talents should be fostered to help us develop as the successors to inherit our rural landscapes. Listen to the voice of the young people and give us the chance to take the lead.
EUROPARC Federation Presidents Meeting - Youth Living, Learning and Working in Protected Areas
The meeting of the Parks' presidents and mayors has become an important appointment at the conference. An opportunity for elected or nominated representatives within European protected areas to come together, share, learn and explore the issues and challenges provided by these unique and special roles.
This year the meeting focused on biodiversity and youth engagement - two crucial themes of high political relevance in protected areas. Park Authorities' presidents, chairs, mayors and others have been invited to share experiences, propose actions and initiatives for youth to get engaged and better live, learn and work within protected areas in Europe.
Laura Peters presented in more detail the Youth Manifesto, challenging parks and decision makers to take action for the future.
Introduced by a Scottish pipe band, the EUROPARC Awards Ceremony acknowledged the efforts that different professionals and institutions carried out during 2018 for parks and nature conservation.
The Transboundary Parks Award 2018 was granted to Pasvi Inarik Transboundary Park, Finland, for their outstanding international work.
The Alfred Toepfer Natural Heritage Scholarship Awards went to Laszlo Patki - 'Large carnivore co-existence and local environment' (Hungary); Agne Jasinaviciute - 'Landscape protection and management' (Lithuania) and Baiba Ralle - 'How to communicate with the local communities, tourists and volunteers' (Latvia).
The EUROPARC Federation, on behalf of all its members, also thanked the Cairngorms National Park Authority for hosting this year's conference, with special thanks to the conference sponsors.