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21-23 MARCH 2017

Final OpenNESS Annual Meeting in Smolenice, Slovakia

We must now deliver societal impact

Helping nature to help us: that was the main idea behind the joint OpenNESS, OPERAs, ECOPLAN and ESP conference on ecosystem services. Between 19 and 23 September, more than 600 participants from all over the world made their way to the University of Antwerp to debate and learn more about how nature contributes to human well-being and vice versa. The conference resulted in the Antwerp Declaration, a call to integrate ecosystem services into policy and business operation.

In the Antwerp Declaration the signatories call for action to realise the transformative potential of the ecosystem services framework. There is a need to refocus on principles of sustainability, reclaim the notion of value and expand collaborations. Everybody is invited to show their support and sign the Antwerp Declaration at:

The Antwerp Declaration was drafted through an innovative and iterative process with the involvement of the conference participants. For instance, prior to the conference over 120 participants replied to the Antwerp Declaration survey, on which the final declaration text was based. The conference itself offered a platform for further discussion and a place to provide more comments and input.

On Tuesday 20 September, an ecosystem services fair comprised of 40 stands related to the practice of ecosystem services (projects, initiatives, companies) resulted in great networking and exchange of practical experiences and initiatives. During the fair, the new online platform Oppla was launched. This website – a result from both OpenNESS and OPERAs – is an interactive tools, methods and knowledge hub and a community for helping to put ecosystem services into practice and for supporting nature-based solutions.

Furthermore, the conference programme offered an attractive mix of:

  • keynote presentations from policy, practice and science;
  • a networking day (the ecosystem services fair) where businesses, practitioners, policymakers and researchers met and showcased their work;
  • interactive sessions to demonstrate working examples of ecosystem services and natural capital;
  • field excursions to see ecosystem services in action; and
  • scientific sessions.

A conference book of abstracts was prepared for each session; these are now available online. Each book of abstracts also contains the session programme. Due to the large number of pages the document is only distributed digitally. Marleen Peeters photographed the conference. Go to Flickr to view the full conference photo album.

Photo: © Marleen Peeters