Report of ESD conference in Antwerp

From 19-23 September the ANK team attended the European Ecosystem Services conference in Antwerp. Based on the theme  'Helping nature to help us' the conference examined, via lectures, workshops and excursions, the role that ecosystem services can play in our well-being and in protecting nature.

The conference was attended by more than 600 participants from science, politics and practice. They were able to meet and interact during the lectures, an information market, workshops, scientific sessions and excursions.During the information market people could try out the ANK website. We regularly received compliments and people wanted to know whether the concept could also be used in other countries (as is possible, in principle).

World Café

The ANK team gave an interactive workshop, in the form of a World Café, about how you can implement 'nature-based solutions' in decision-making on rural and urban areas. This turned out to be an important issue because one of the comments heard regularly during the conference was that, although there is sufficient information and knowledge available, there is often a lack of integration and connection with practice. The workshop participants expressed their views on the problems that exist in the areas of focus, who the stakeholders are, which information is needed for decision-making and how this has to be presented.

Nature excursions

In addition to workshops and presentations, numerous excursions were organised on the Wednesday afternoon. One of these was to the Hoge Kempen national park where an old mining area has been converted into a nature reserve, with other destinations being the Zwin estuary nature reserve and the Drowned Land of Saeftinghe, an area of mudflats, shallows and salt marshes criss-crossed with gullies.

'The Antwerp Declaration'

Ecosystem services are receiving a great deal of attention from the scientific community. In order for them to be given a more prominent place on the political agendas and achieve concrete changes in society, the conference organisers drew up a declaration of intent, referred to as 'The Antwerp Declaration'. The declaration of intent contains three statements:
  1. We have to refocus on principles of sustainability – Sustainability with regard to the well-known trio of people, profit, planet (PPP). This means that the ecosystem services debate must also focus on equality and social justice.
  2. The term 'value' needs to be reconsidered – To do justice to all possible ways in which nature can help us, we must value it in various ways and not just in monetary terms.
  3. We will be contacting each other more because dialogue and the development of a social understanding are essential in order to achieve actual social effects. More cooperation at various levels and between disciplines is also vital.

You can read more on this issue and sign the declaration of intent on the ESP site.

Detailed report

You can find the abstracts and the presentations on the conference website.