Expanding the engagement network with experts and leaders to benefit from the latest technologies and best practices in environmental education.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, February 3, 2024: The International Fund for Houbara Conservation pavilion, adorned with Asian houbara bustards, succeeded in attracting visitors and participants at the World Environmental Education Congress. These visitors included environmental educators, researchers, teachers, government officials, and those interested in developing and nurturing environmental education and learning for sustainable development. The pavilion also welcomed groups of teachers and students from schools in the United Arab Emirates. Many visitors expressed their delight in learning about the exceptional initiatives and unprecedented achievements of this globally leading programme in preserving wild species.
The International Fund for Houbara Conservation concluded its participation in the twelfth edition of the World Environmental Education Congress with great success. The Fund's pavilion at the congress's exhibition received widespread attention from environmental education leaders participating and visiting the venue. They eagerly observed the Asian houbara bustards produced in Abu Dhabi centres and followed the fascinating success story of this programme since its establishment by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan 47 years ago. The Fund also engaged in various congress sessions, exchanging ideas and knowledge with national and international individuals and entities to enhance the network of international collaborations, raise awareness, and open doors for cooperation and joint work with governmental and non-governmental organisations in the field of environmental education and education for sustainable development.
His Excellency Abdulla Ghurair Al Qubaisi, Director-General of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, praised the positive responses from the visitors, indicating global appreciation for their efforts in preserving wildlife and the growing desire to collaborate towards common goals. Al Qubaisi explained that the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, through its participation in this congress, expanded its international network with organisations, experts, and global leaders to benefit from the latest technologies and best practices in wildlife conservation education. He expressed hope that this would be a prelude to further participation in international events and conferences to showcase the achievements of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation and its innovative model for biodiversity conservation.
The Sustainable Heritage of the UAE and Its Deep-rooted Traditions in Wildlife Conservation and Safe Living within Nature:
The distinguished participation of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation in this event enriched the congress sessions in several areas. In the area of values, cultural diversity, and its role in environmental education and education for sustainable development, Mr. Mohamed Saleh Al Baidani, the advisor to the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, spoke about the sustainable heritage of falconry and the ancient traditions of the UAE in wildlife protection and safe living within nature. These traditions are passed down from generation to generation and crystallised into a comprehensive vision of environmental and wildlife sustainability. They have led to the launch of numerous initiatives, plans, and programmes to conserve species and ecosystems and enhance sustainable heritage based on the continuous diversity and richness of biodiversity in natural environments. Abu Dhabi's Houbara Conservation Programme is considered a model of the environmental sustainability vision initiated by the founding father of the United Arab Emirates. The programme successfully changed the global status of houbara bustards through an integrated strategy involving genetic research, ecological studies, satellite tracking and monitoring, modern breeding techniques in captivity, and release into the wild according to international standards. It also strengthened international collaboration to protect species and natural habitats, combat illegal hunting, and manage sustainable use. The programme engages local communities, develops, and raises awareness through education and environmental education.
Abu Dhabi Programme's Contribution to Biodiversity Assessment: Enhancing Knowledge and Awareness of Desert Conservation:
Under the first pillar of the congress related to addressing the global crisis triad: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation presented a session on the Abu Dhabi Houbara Programme's contribution to biodiversity assessment: Enhancing knowledge and awareness of desert conservation. Dr. Yves Hingrat, the Research Director at RENECO International Wildlife Consultants, conducted the presentation. The presentation emphasised that addressing the biodiversity crisis requires collaboration at all levels of society, from international government agreements to local community actions. This necessitates community awareness and environmental education for all groups, from children to policymakers, about ecological systems, threats, and available opportunities for restoration. The researcher highlighted the relative neglect of studying desert lands for a long time, still considering these ecological systems as 'empty' with low value. Deserts cover about one-third of the Earth's surface, contain unique biological and cultural diversity, and biodiversity loss in desert lands can disproportionately impact these ecosystems. Therefore, one urgent issue is to enhance global knowledge of biodiversity in desert lands and develop effective tools for their assessment, monitoring, and conservation.
Engaging Students and Teachers in Challenges and Interactive Learning Experiences for the Next Generation of Nature Advocates:
Within the fourth pillar of the congress related to enhancing collaboration with communities to address environmental challenges, Mrs. Hamda Al Ameri presented an introductory overview of the Fund’s education programme, launched in 2018. The focus was on the 'Stories from Our Environment' challenge initiative, aiming to develop reading, writing, and artistic skills among students. This initiative was launched by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation in 2021 to introduce local species in the United Arab Emirates, especially the houbara bustard. It emphasises their deep connection to the UAE's heritage and culture, highlighting the importance of protecting and preserving them. This challenge encouraged students from schools in the UAE to write many short stories that expanded their understanding of sustainability issues related to preserving native species and the challenges they face.
Sarah Jizzini from the Fund's Education Team also presented an overview of the education programme framework. She introduced its core pillars, which dynamically and interdependently integrate technology and innovation with daily experiences of nature and life. The programme seeks to attract the contribution of teachers and school administrations by developing their skills and enhancing their abilities to integrate the importance of the environment and wildlife into the subjects they teach inside and outside the classroom. Collaborative efforts aim to develop interactive learning experiences for the next generation of environmental leaders, fostering a sense of responsibility, confidence, and environmental citizenship. This drives effective participation in coordinating actions to solve environmental problems, provide opportunities, and create learning environments that encourage creativity, scientific development, and promote societal values and attitudes.