The European Forest Institute (EFI) Young Leadership Programme (YLP) connects young professionals with global and regional leaders to develop strategic thinking on how to manage and use forest resources to address societal challenges. The theme for the 2020 edition, extended into 2021 and held online due to the global pandemic, focused on Mediterranean forests and sustainable urbanised societies. 14 participants joined the first ever online version of the programme from 10 countries: Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Portugal, France, Bhutan and Belgium.
Adapting the programme to an online format was the first challenge faced by the organisers, EFI’s Mediterranean Facility. In consultation with participants during an introductory session held in September 2020, the full programme was postponed to July 2021, and included two weeks of introductory sessions on the interactive elements of the programme, led by Mireia Pecurul and Metodi Sotirov, using scenario building methodology. Then followed an intensive week of inspiring presentations from high-level speakers, from 12 to 16 July.
Today, two out of three people in the Mediterranean already live in urban areas, a figure that is higher than the world average and is set to rise. This urban growth exacerbates current challenges for cities, the environment and people’s health, while former rural communities struggle to adapt to the dramatic changes in lifestyle and income generation brought about by rapid urbanisation. These facts set the scene for YLP-MED 2020-2021: Sustainable urbanised societies.
The week began with an introduction into the key challenges for Mediterranean forests by Chadi Mohanna, chair of FAO Silva Mediterranea, before Javier Gómez focused on the relation between nature and cities using the case of Collserola Natural Park. Meriem Bouamrane from UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, and Margarida Tomé from the University of Lisbon gave insights on how to move towards a Mediterranean forest-based bioeconomy through Biosphere reserves and Non-Wood Forest Products, respectively. Inazio Martinez de Arano, head of EFI Mediterranean Facility, gave an introduction into the Mediterranean bioeconomy, while Bart Muys, professor at KULeuven, focused on synergies in forest management for fire, water and biodiversity.
Three inspirational presentations about nature-based solutions in cities specifically addressed the programme’s key theme: Mireia Gascon (Barcelona Institute for Global Health) focused on Green spaces and health; Simone Borelli (FAO) discussed the challenges and opportunities of (peri-)urban forestry; and Vicente Guallart (IAAC) talked about ecological advanced buildings and biocities. Finally, Laura Secco and Octavi Quintana Tria presented on innovation for Mediterranean societies, followed by a panel debate with Giorgio Mosangini (SCP/RAC), Andrés Alcántara (IUCN) and Toni Ventre (Model Forest Network) on the topic “Meet the innovators”. Participants also enjoyed sessions on key skills: communications & presentation from EFIMED’s Sarah Adams; and leadership & gender perspectives from Irina Prokofieva (CTFC).
Throughout the week, Mireia Pecurul and Metodi Sotirov led participants to work in groups on a scenario building exercise, focusing on the effect of nature on human’s health and wellbeing, nature-based solutions in cities and bioeconomy. The programme closed with excellent presentations from each group, focusing on a chosen scenario out of four possibilities and the consequent implications, challenges and opportunities therein, with inspiring closing remarks by high-profile researchers.
EFI’s Young Leadership Programme targets the leaders of the future, bringing young professionals together with experts to create a new space where change can happen. This intensive training is designed for early-stage researchers, science and technology experts, entrepreneurs, policy makers and professionals from the public and private sectors. Up to 20 participants from different backgrounds and experience are selected for each edition of the programme through a competitive and transparent process, based on eligibility criteria established by the Programme & Selection Committee.
The 2020-2021 edition of the YLPMED was organised in collaboration with La Diputació de Barcelona (DIBA).