Minister of State Seán Kyne address to the UNESCO EuroMAB Conference Dublin 2019
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Good evening Mayor, ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here in this wonderful venue this evening. I know we have people here from 30 countries not just all over Europe but Russia, Canada and the US, tá fáilte romhaibh go léir- I welcome you all to Dublin.
I won’t keep you long, as I presume you’re all hungry and have enjoyed your experiences in Dublin so far. I’d like to start by thanking the people who made this event and the entire conference possible; the partners of Dublin Bay Biosphere and their representatives- Les, Shane, Edel, Laura, Ann, David, Hans, Kevin, Rúairí, Ciara and Sarah. I welcome the mayor of Fingal County Council, Councillor Anthony Lavin and the Chief Executive Paul Reid. I am proud to support the work of the Partnership and am delighted it is represented by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department.
I am sure you have been made aware by now that Bull Island was originally designated a biosphere by UNESCO 34 years ago. In order to retain the biosphere designation and meet the changed qualifying criteria, the City Council developed proposals to expand the Bull Island Biosphere to encompass the wider Dublin Bay. The Dublin Bay Biosphere embraces the significant changes that have taken place since its original designation in terms of nature protection, city expansion and the economic importance of the bay.
The Dublin Bay Biosphere project has been led by Dublin City Council and managed by means of a partnership between the 3 local authorities in the bay area, Dublin City, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal County Councils, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Fáilte Ireland and Dublin Port Company.
Dublin Bay Biosphere combines the interests of central and local government with those of the private sector and local businesses and communities. And I am happy to see the Chief Executive of Dublin Port Company Eamonn Reilly here tonight. Through the partnership model Dublin Bay Biosphere has become a project of international significance that brings much needed economic stimulus and employment opportunities to local communities in the Bay area.
Significant social and economic benefits accrue from a UNESCO biosphere designation, through investment in heritage, culture, science and education and the promotion of sustainable products and services, and also sustainable tourism. In addition to the promotion of conservation and biodiversity issues, the biosphere has given a unique brand identity for Dublin Bay to promote its amenity and recreation value to Dubliners, Irish and foreign visitors.
And visitor numbers are increasing. My Department runs six national parks and 79 nature reserves across Ireland and we have seen a huge increase in numbers visiting our sites. We implement the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the Wildlife Act around the country every day, and we work with other sectors to progress nature conservation. We aim not to just protect and preserve our natural sites but to promote them also.
The Programme is intended to combine the natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve our lives, and I welcome Meriem Bourame and Jonathan Baker from UNESCO here tonight. The programme aims to safeguard natural and managed ecosystems, and promote innovative approaches to economic development that are not just socially and culturally appropriate, but importantly environmentally sustainable.
The Government’s intention is to conserve our natural heritage, to raise its profile, to educate about the importance of biodiversity, to bring about better understanding of the socio-economic benefits of that heritage, to bring about a better understanding of how natural heritage can be used to create and sustain jobs, and how it can contribute to economic recovery and stimulate balanced economic and social development. Our objectives are thus fully in line with those of the Man and Biosphere programme.
As Minister within the Department of Heritage, it is impossible for me to escape the extent of the crisis our natural world is facing. I know only too well how much work to there is to do, and how it must be done now. By encouraging people’s interaction with their environment, participating in the Man and Biosphere Programme can help us find and indeed be solutions for nature. As a politician I recognise that these solutions need to be embedded in both socio-economic and cultural realities.
In Dublin Bay Biosphere there are already a number of examples of environmental stakeholders such as farmers leading the way on this through innovative partnerships with conservationists and ecologists.
The same is true for our all towns and cities. Ireland is becoming increasingly urban, and this trend will continue as our population grows. We must support biodiversity in the urban environment as a priority.
Because who among us wants to live a city in that chooses not to implement nature-based solutions and community-level biodiversity projects that contribute to food security, climate resilience and social cohesion? This is why Dublin Bay Biosphere is so important to us as a nation; being a Biosphere reserve in a major capital city in Europe.
I hope you all get a chance to enjoy this wonderful city through the activities being organised for this conference. I’ve taken a look at the conference programme and I see one of your workshop themes is very close to my own heart. As Minister for the Irish Language I am passionate about the promotion and protection of our Indigenous Language, our first language, Irish, and I will be very interested to see any post conference papers highlighting experiences from around the Biosphere Network.
Dublin Bay Biosphere affords us the opportunity to improve our understanding of the broader value of our natural heritage, and to integrate and harmonise its management and protection with often unseen and unappreciated, social and economic benefits. I believe that we can learn from this important project and that further significant conservation, economic and social benefits will come about if we strive to fully appreciate, explore, and develop the true potential of our natural heritage.
I would like to commend Dublin City, Fingal, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council Councils, Fáilte Ireland, the NPWS and Dublin Port for each of them taking their roles firmly by the hand driving the project forward with commitment and innovation.
Indeed the partnership model used for the project provides an excellent example of how various agencies, central and local government can achieve their respective strategic objectives through cooperation and collaboration.
I am conscious that I am preaching to the converted in this audience but in closing I’ll echo the sentiments of Attenborough when he said
“Many individuals are doing what they can. But real success can only come if there is a change in our societies and in our economics and in our politics.”
Biospheres allow us make this change.
I wish you all a successful and productive conference, and I look forward to hearing the outcomes.
Guím gach rath ar bhur gcuid oibre.
Go raibh maith agaibh