Hosted by the United Nations Association in Canada, our Master of International Forestry (MIF) students had the amazing opportunity to join BC Forestry experts in dialogue on the future of forests and society at the New Diplomacy of Natural Resources (NewDips) forum.
We caught up with MIF graduate student, Gretha Teta, to learn more about the forum and the importance of experiential learning opportunities in the MIF program.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself!
“My name is Gretha and I am originally from Kigali, Rwanda. I completed my undergraduate degree in Natural Resources Conservation here at UBC, and I am currently completing a Master’s in International Forestry.”
Q: What is the UNA Canada’s New Diplomacy of Natural Resources program, or NewDips?
“NewDips is a program that convenes the best and brightest scholars and young professionals with leaders from the private sector, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), Indigenous Peoples and government. By hosting a series of collaborative sessions, it provides a platform for the development of new and comprehensive natural resource management solutions.”
Q: Can you take us through what the NewDips forum at UBC Forestry was like?
“The NewDips forum at UBC Forestry was a two-day event. The first day started with presentations from different forestry leaders representing four stakeholder groups. MIF students then participated in a multi-sectoral stakeholder simulation where they were assigned to one of four stakeholder working groups representing: Indigenous Peoples, Industry, Government and ENGOs. Led by experts, students had the opportunity to debate, negotiate and compromise.
On the second day, we all came together to form a resolution on forests and what Canada’s role in international forestry should be. We also had a reception at the end of the first day which gave students, professors and MIF guests yet another opportunity to network.”
Q: What did you learn through the discussions? What are some key insights or highlights?
“One important component of the MIF program is social experiential learning and this forum gave us a platform to learn about the various aspects of social forestry. Taking the role of a particular stakeholder and defending their priorities and values as you collaborate with other stakeholders was challenging. However, this gave us an opportunity to learn how, in real life, different stakeholders with different values can build consensus through compromise. Themes that dominated our discussions included innovation, reconciliation, co-management and sustainability.”
Q: How can opportunities, like NewDips, help students to expand their learnings from the MIF Program, and why is it important to engage in these discussions?
“During discussions like these, students gain new perspectives on the negotiation process to achieve sustainable forest management. In our careers, we will have to work with different people who might have very different priorities and values. Therefore, discussions like these help students develop the skills and cross-sectoral relationships required to contribute to a practical framework for the development and implementation of a new conversation to the advantage of all stakeholders.”
Q: Do you have any advice for those interested in pursuing a career in international forestry?
“Forestry is complex and full of wicked problems. A career in international forestry also presents an opportunity to work with different communities in different parts of the world. Therefore, to approach different global forest issues, one has to stay open-minded and willing to learn, unlearn and relearn depending on the context.”