2021 Asterousia Hybrid University

Phase A: Crete, 19-24 October 2021 & Phase B: Online course in 2022


Since 2014, a series of Summer Universities jointly run by MIO-ECSDE and the UNESCO Venice Office have trained a number of young scientists and managers of Biosphere Reserves (BRs) from Europe, Mediterranean and beyond so as to:

  • Develop knowledge and competences on the multiple values of BRs as laboratories and catalysts for sustainable development.
  • Offer insights on integrated management approaches for BRs and other designated areas (Natura 2000 sites, parks, etc).
  • Offer networking opportunities among sites, agencies and individuals.
  • Promote the Man and the Bioshere MAB/UNESCO Programme.

The 2021 University emphasises biodiversity and ecosystems threats due to plastic pollution, especially in marine & coastal BRs.

2021 Context

The organisation of the 2021 Asterousia Hybrid University (AHU) comes in line with:

  • The priorities of the EU Green Deal related to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, including restoration efforts for damaged ecosystems at sea and on land, sustainability issues of blue economy and fisheries sectors, in relation to marine litter from the tourism and the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, etc.
  • The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, Europe’s long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. Actually, the 2021 AHU follows up on the release of the First Detailed Draft of a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework, by the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Biodiversity (CBD), that sets out an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity, ensuring that by 2050 the shared vision of ‘living in harmony with nature’ is fulfilled.
  • The Agenda 2030 and the international decades in place, such as the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and the Decade of Action for the SDGs (2020-2030) stress the role of youth as drivers of change.
The 50 years of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme 

The 2021 Asterousia Hybrid University

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restricting conditions, the 2021 Asterousia University takes place again in an Hybrid format, as the 2020 University, including two phases:

  • Phase A, the face-to-face part, with lectures, field visits and work, , carried out for a relatively small number of trainees, some from abroad and others from Crete and Greek BR’s and designated sites. Phase A took place from 19th to 24th of October 2021 in in the Asterousia BR and nearby areas (Heraklion, Mylopotamos). Its sessions were video recorded and parts of them are properly integrated to the online course of Phase B. Read more about PHASE A  here.
  • Phase B, the 4-weeks online course which will take place on January – February 2022 in order to capitalize on the experience gained and the outcomes of Phase A and to provide the learning opportunity to a wider audience. Read more about the online course here.

Aim: The 2021 Asterousia Hybrid University aims to strengthen, improve and capitalize on different aspects of the function of Biosphere Reserves of the MAB/UNESCO Programme and other Protected Areas (designated under Natura 2000, SPAs of UNEP/MAP etc.) and train, enhance the capacities of managers, post-graduates and other stakeholders involved. This year special emphasis will be given to marine and coastal environments as well as marine litter. 

Target group:  Includes post-graduate students, young scientists, researchers and managers, studying or working (or otherwise engaged) in existing and potential Biosphere Reserves, Natura 2000 sites and other mountainous and coastal protected areas from Southeastern Europe.

Topics: The overarching theme of the Hybrid University is the role of young professionals in sustainable development management of BRs and other designated areas,  which is considered of crucial importance in effectively addressing climate change and shifting energy, water and overall consumption and production patterns to new paradigms. In this context , the university will properly address the following key thematic areas during its two phases:

    • Sustainable Development Management in Biosphere Reserves; Global and regional policies
    • Success factors in applying for a BR; Opportunities and challenges
    • Marine pollution and biodiversity in the Mediterranean
    • The Water Cycle and the Water – Energy – Food – Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus
    • Marine Litter / Marine Plastic pollution monitoring and assessment
    • Single Use Plastic (SUPs): prevention and mitigation actions/ the role of key stakeholders (e.g. education community, tourism business, local authorities)
    • Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Ocean literacy
    • Examples of youth-led initiatives
    • Cultural and intangible heritage assets within management plans
    • BR branding; Sustainable local products; from production to sustainable packaging.

Organisers / supporters

The 2021 Asterousia Hybrid University is co-organised and supported by: MIO-ECSDE/MEdIES Secretariat, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe; the Region of Crete; the Asterousia Management Committee; the UNESCO Chair and Network on Sustainable Development Management and Education in the Mediterranean, and the Greek National Committee for MAB/UNESCO, with the contribution of the LIFE Programme of the European Union and of the Green Fund of Greece.

MAB Vision, 2015-2025

A world where people are conscious of their common future and interaction with our plane, a world where people act collectively and responsibly to build thriving societies in harmony with the biosphere 

EU Biodiversity Strategy

The EU Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies are a crucial part of the great transition we are embarking upon.

F. Timmermans, Vice-President, European Green Deal

What does sustainability mean?

Balance, mindset, pathway, care, future thinking, respect, reconciliation, harmony, new-citizenship, utopia, responsibility, back to basics, consistency, self-culture, planetary thinking, intelligent coexistence, education, revision, ethos, model, endurance, preservation, value-system, justice, freedom, creativity, well-being, wisdom interdependence …

Some of the words learners associated with sustainability (Asterousia Hybrid University 2020)