The 26th Session of the MAB International Co-ordinating Council has passed. Feel free to browse the pages to see what took place.
On this page you can read the opening speach from 10 June.

Opening remarks at MAB ICC, 10 June 2014
I am happy to see representatives from around the globe visiting us here and we are  honoured to host the 26th meeting of the MAB International Coordinating Council.

My name is Magnus Kindbom and I am the State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry for Rural Affairs. I first of all want to wish you very welcome to Sweden, and especially to Jönköping, the tenth-largest municipality in Sweden, with about 130,000 inhabitants and a town strategically situated between the two largest cities in Sweden – Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Jönköping has nature reserves and two smaller lakes close to the centre, and many of the forests you see on surrounding hills are protected from forestry, so we combine conservation and recreation. Our forest is an example of how you can live with and on regional natural resources without depleting them. Historically, our vast Swedish forests have been a source of richness and a producer of raw materials, but to us this is not only the past but an important aspect of the future as well.

In this perspective, biosphere reserves play an important role in developing new methods and new knowledge on how man can preserve a natural area at the same time as creating conditions that allow man to sustainably live in said area, contributing to better understanding of biosphere resources. During the last ten years, Sweden has established five biosphere reserves – from the wetlands of Kristianstad in the south to the more northerly located River Landscape of Nedre Dalälven. All of these biosphere reserves are in compliance with the Statutory Framework of the MAB programme and the Seville Strategy. The comprehensive participatory processes undertaken to establish biosphere reserves in Sweden, including forming the foundation of its strategy and development plan, are processes that increase the democratic functions of the biosphere reserve, based on the local context.

Creating opportunities for younger generations and engaging youth in shaping their future is central. Therefore, several youth initiatives have been launched in our biosphere reserves. Several have a focus on education, like nature schools, and incorporate biospheres and sustainability. As you all might be aware of, we are now practically in the Biosphere Reserve of East Vättern Scarp Landscape, a biosphere reserve which is very interesting and varied. On a stretch of just a few kilometres there are four different hardiness zones and extensive biodiversity. Lake Vättern, the fifth-largest lake in Europe, has a visible influence on the local climate and gives us cold springs when the water slowly warms up, which results in long, mild autumns. Because of this, several post-glacial warming relicts have been able to survive in the region, and in the slopes down to Lake Vättern they have an oceanic climate. You can see the influence of the lake also in the fact that the region is home to one of the country’s largest fruit-growing districts, which is not common at this latitude and altitude. In this area there are several large-scale farms and manors, as well as three urban areas.

One feature of the region is a transition from a completely urban to an active farming
environment in a more sparsely populated rural area. In the past fifty years, the number of agricultural companies in the region has dropped dramatically, which changes the conditions for rural development here. Active agriculture and forestry are the foundation of a living countryside, but other production is of growing importance. Nowadays, many rural properties are managed part-time or on the owner’s leisure time, which has limited the negative effects of reduced profitability. The biodiversity of the small-scale farming landscape can also be seen in the raw materials they produce and which can be used for food, medicine, construction material, fuel and fodder. What you can see here are examples of Swedish agricultural policies. As you are aware, we are each year challenged by the somewhat harsh winters in our country. So we have to be creative in order to be able to keep our agriculture and our countryside alive.
Regardless of being on the climatic border of where it is possible to cultivate, we have our successes. A recent one is actually Swedish food; not only do we export globally, but Swedish chefs and bakers have been successful in the food industry over the last decades. Only a few weeks ago a team of Swedish chefs won what is regarded as the European Championship of restaurant cooking! Swedish agricultural exports are a focus of the Government.

As a part of the EU our agricultural policies are closely linked to the rest of Europe, but in some cases we have moved further than what the EU requires; and at the moment there is a big debate on how food industries can function in ethical and environmental security. Our Minister for Agriculture, Mr Eskil Erlandsson has formulated it thus:

“Sweden has unlimited potential; magnificent nature, good food and events of world class – these are resources we can use without depleting them. We shall make use of the local commitment and entrepreneurship and make sure the whole country can live and grow. Such development is not feasible without the agricultural section of the economy”

Sweden is – and has always been – a great friend of the UN system and also of specialized agencies such as UNESCO, where we are an active member. At the moment, Sweden has a seat at the Executive Board of UNESCO 2014–2017. UNESCO has the widest mandate in the UN family: it is here that Member States cooperate on education, natural and social and human sciences, and culture and communication. In no
other UN organization can you work with networks from geology to literacy, archive preservation to the safety of journalists.

This is also visible in the MAB programme: it is based within the natural sciences and social sciences; it promotes study and scientific analyses on the interrelation between ecosystems and socio-economic processes, etc. It is very interesting that MAB works also on the interdependence between the loss of biological diversity and the loss of cultural diversity. One crucial aspect of the MAB programme, which I am sure you all will take part in here in Jönköping, is the exchange and transfer of knowledge on problems and solutions.

Before the East Vättern Scarp Landscape was nominated as a biosphere reserve, the local actors gathered under the slogan, “We are all a part of the biosphere”, and they all joined in efforts to give concrete examples of how the values of the landscape can contribute to developing towns, rural areas and tourism. To them, the three aspects of sustainable development are equally important: ecological, socio-economic and economic. And the goal is formulated as “develop, preserve and support”. This is an example of the “bottom-up” approach of the MAB programme: strong local commitment which results in local initiatives for nominations, where a multitude of local stakeholders can see and take advantage of working together and linking their environment to the global arena.

The MAB programme links environmental knowledge, the local environment and research in a way that is unusual, and which, in turn, contains a strong element of education. I am sure that you all have examples of initiatives and good practices in your local MAB commitment and we are all eager to learn from each other.

Jönköping is the birth place of Dag Hammarskjöld – the second Secretary General of the United Nations (between 1953 and 1961). In his book “Markings” a collection of his diary reflections, he wrote:

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road”

I wish you a successful meeting which includes care for the ground before our feet, and with the future development of your work. We need to be realistic as well as visionary, and also a little bit daring and courageous. Let me conclude by wishing you all a successful meeting, and I hope that you also will have time to enjoy the many wonders of this region and form many new contacts for your work in the MAB network!

Thank you for your attention.

Magnus Kindbom
State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry for Rural Affairs.