The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network continues its journey since September and the successful events that we had at our conference event in St Catharines. The board has met onseveral occasions to develop documents that the association should have, starting with vision and mission statements (see below the survey about this). In addition, a few task force groups have been identified to work on the organization’s governance structure, communication, and the development of the research network. As everything develops, we will be increasingly seeking inputs from all of our partners.
The Network is a collective. It is based on a co-governance structure of Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners. Anyone who supports the Network’s vision can be a partner. We believe that NEBN should be a catalyzer for information exchange, collaborative work, and supporting education activities with additional knowledge being developed and made accessible on its website. NEBN works with partners to promote the vision.
As convener of the UNESCO designated Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, NEBN has obligations toward not only its partners but also to UNESCO. In 2024, the NEBN will be visited by external examiners to assess the health of the NEBN and how we fulfill the mandates of the Man and Biosphere Program. To start, we need to prepare the Self Study. This document looks at the past 10 years, demonstrates what has been done and what is being done right now by all the partners and then looks at what steps will be taken to continue for the next ten years. This requires thedevelopment of a draft strategic plan and other affirming documents to demonstrate our desire and ability to continue the designation. This will therefore require our partners to send us their contributions and successes regarding the various mandates of Biosphere. Some of this is already evident in the wonderful expressions and testimonials included in this edition of the Network newsletter.
So, what are those mandates? The first one is the conservation, which is not only in the core zone but also what activities that are done in the buffer zone, for example. This is important as we also have this mandate through the grant from Environment and Climate Change Canada. The second mandate relates to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. While there are seventeen of them, we know that most organizations are probably working only on one or a few of them. As communities have more and more to report, we believe that several of you will be able to send examples of what is being done in your communities. The third mandate relates to climate action. We know that several partners are working on this, and we invite you also to share your accomplishments. Education is also an important mandate of Biospheres. Education can be for sustainable development, conservation, climate change, and more. One important theme in Canada is Truth and Reconciliation; the NEBN is well positioned in this regard given its co-governance structure and involvement of Indigenous people throughout every aspect of our work.
As you can see, we need all partners who value the UNESCO designation of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere to be part of this Periodic Review process, which happens every 10 years. Your input will be crucial to making this process a success. We therefore encourage all of you to send a short description of your activities and accomplishments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current board has been working for the past few months on the development of principles of engagement and vision statement and for the organization. This work has been co-developed with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members. However, it is draft that we wanted to share and ask for comments from all our partners. Please read the following and let us know what you think, whether we are missing something or could articulate something differently, etc., by writing to email@example.com.
Principles of Engagement / Vision Statement
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network has been co-developed with Indigenous peoples so people from all four directions can work together on Turtle Island in balance in a good way with a good heart. We work toward reconciliation through using ethical space and sharing knowledge that helps us protect the land, water, air, and spirit of G’chi Bimadinaa (in Anishinaabemowin, The Great Cliff That Runs Along).
Our organization works in the context of Canada’s Conservation Vision: A Report of the National Advisory Panel that “embraces Indigenous world views that acknowledge we are one species among many that share the Earth with the rest of life, achieves our collective conservation goals within a framework of reconciliation and the creation of ethical space, and affirms that a core strategy for conserving biological diversity is an interconnected network of protected areas and OECMs (Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures).”
The Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Network has been established as a community-led, grassroots organization that has exceeded the criteria and standards required by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
For all to live in a healthy environment in the lands connected by the Niagara Escarpment where we work together to conserve and protect the land, water and air for diverse resilient ecosystems and the sustainability of our communities.
Though humans have caused a biodiversity and climate crisis, we believe that we have a responsibility, as well as the potential, to make things better together and with equity — for the land, the air and the water, for all living beings, for all future generations — and to engage in co-development of these solutions with Indigenous Peoples throughout the Niagara Escarpment.
To build and connect networks of individuals and groups in communities across the Niagara Escarpment by providing forums to share successes and promote learning that support good practices for conservation and supporting a low-carbon, diverse, sustainable, resilient and just future for all.
While we feel we are still just getting started, the NEBN website has been functional for the past year. It can be found at http://nebnetwork.org/. Our publishing goal is to celebrate all the accomplishments of our partners in supporting our shared vision for the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere. Please do not hesitate to contact us with events or other information pertinent to NEBN and comments on how to improve it.
— Liette Vasseur
Treasurer of NEBN
UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability
Department of Biological Sciences
Environmental Sustainability Research Centre
Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute Fellow