Lisa Blanken spent six months in Paris engaging in an internship at the Man and the Biosphere Programme, part of UNESCO. This is her story.
In line with my unusual study combination of Forest and Nature Conservation and my previous study Public Administration, the relation between society and its natural surroundings as well as the use of natural resources has always intrigued me. For my internship I pursued a position resembling my ideal future, namely a job in the field of international conservation. Eventually, I applied and got accepted at the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris
Different than many other students from Forest and Nature Conservation I did not start my internship in a far and remote place, but I had to get used to city life in Paris and working in a large and multicultural UN body for six months. I had to manoeuvre in a complex organization with a lot of influence, but that includes the usual bureaucracy one has to get used to. The MAB Programme is a scientific programme that tries to improve the relationship between man and nature partly through a network of 621 Biosphere Reserves in 117 countries. These Biosphere Reserves are areas recognized by UNESCO, which resembles natural heritage sites in this aspect, but Biosphere Reserves are much more a broader cultural landscape where local people and sustainable development are included.
My internship tasks ranged from supporting the MAB secretariat in their daily activities, to writing a report on indigenous knowledge and beekeeping in Biosphere Reserves. Aside from that I had to update a dataset and create statistics and graphs on the evaluation of the Biosphere Reserves. The PowerPoint I made of the results was presented during an International Coordinating Council held during my internship. The experience of preparing and participating in intergovernmental meetings as such was very valuable and gave me insight in the diplomacy and decision-making which eventually affects people and ecosystems on a local level. Furthermore, I met experts from all over the world and learned about the many different contexts people are working in, something which added greatly to my already special experience at UNESCO.
At the end of my internship I also came in contact with the National Commission for UNESCO in the Netherlands. They were planning to organize a workshop on the MAB Programme to explain the programme more thoroughly and to inventory possible interest of areas in the Netherlands. As a result I am now working part-time as a consultant to co-organize this workshop. For this project I am contacting Biosphere Reserves abroad, but also Dutch nature areas, ministries and other institutions. I am very happy that this resulted from my internship.