A few weeks ago, during the 5th edition of the Monaco Ocean Week, hundreds of Scientifics, entrepreneurs, politicians, and philanthropists from around the world met in the Principality, answering the call of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco to multiply efforts to save the oceans. In this interview, Ms. Francisca Cortés Solari, founder of Fundación MERI, shares her thoughts and reflections on their work in Chile and her plans to expand her efforts worldwide.
Ms. Cortés Solari is a good friend of the Principality, and a passionate advocate for environmental protection and education promotion, two pillars to which she has dedicated several years of her philanthropical career. In a fascinating one-to-one conversation with her, we had the opportunity to learn more about her environmental compromise and the plans of her foundation. Living in Monaco contributor, Juan F. Dávila y Verdin created an exclusive interview with her.
Benvegnüu a Múnegu, Francisca! It is a pleasure having you in the Principality. How has been your visit until now?
Merci, Juan! It is always a pleasure to visit Monaco. We have many good friends here, and my team and I always enjoy the warm hospitality of the people in the Principality. We share the same values. We are fascinated by the achievements of this country in terms of sustainable development. I believe that Monaco is an example for other countries.
In your last visit to Monaco, one of the philanthropic organisations you chair, Fundación MERI, had a special role at the Monaco Ocean Week. Can you tell us more about your experience?
This year, during the Monaco Ocean Week, Fundación MERI co-organised an event in strategic partnership with the Centre Scientific de Monaco. The event included three very interesting panels of experts. The first one was dedicated to valuing marine ecosystems services, the second one addressed innovation technologies for community environmental awareness-raising, and the third one was remitted to the innovation technologies at the service of service nature solutions and marine ecosystem services for the protection and conservation of the oceans.
We were pleased to see the auditorium packed, with people very interested in the content of these panels. The reception was fantastic, and we are delighted with the event’s outcome!
Also, at the event, we had the opportunity to present TerritoriAR, a mobile application that Fundación MERI has developed intending to provide a tool for science dissemination through education. The application shows multiple ecosystems from Chile to promote their conservation. We are currently working on the internationalisation of the application to reveal other multiples ecosystems around the world. The next phase of the project will begin soon in Europe. We are very excited about it!
Those are great news, Francisca! Congratulations to you and your team! As a social entrepreneur, you have dedicated many years to developing an environmental philanthropic path in Chile. How did you begin with these initiatives?
Since I was a little girl, I have felt a deep connection with nature and education. Fortunately, I grew up in a family surrounded by strong women that encouraged and stimulated that passion. I remember my childhood spending time in nature with my beloved pets. Later, during my adulthood, I took conscience about the importance of conservation and to protect the environment, not only for its beauty or functionality but also as a way to leave a legacy to the next generations. In this aspect, I consider that the educative perspective of environmental protection is fundamental to promote a sustainable development.
This is why, more than 20 years ago, with the support and encouragement of my family and friends, I decided to establish Fundación CASERTA, the first of my philanthropic organisations.
Fundación Caserta was a pioneer in developing a comprehensive education in Chile, training agents of change for a society challenged to move towards sustainability. Our programs positively impacted more than 22,000 students and 6,000 teachers from many educative institutions in Chile and Latin America during these years.
Later, in 2012, we created a second organisation, Fundación Centro Melimoyu Ecosystem Research Institute, or simply Fundación MERI. With this organisation, we promote scientific research and environmental education, in partnership with communities, at the service of the conservation of strategic ecosystems in Chile and the world.
We began developing projects to conserve ecosystems in Northern Patagonia. Still, since 2019, the foundation has extended its territorial coverage to other territories with strategic ecosystems for conservation and mitigation in the context of climate change.
Currently, Fundación MERI carries out scientific research and environmental education for the conservation of the strategic ecosystems of three natural reserves in Chile: “Puribeter”, located in San Pedro de Atacama, latitude 22º, in the Antofagasta Region, in the north of Chile; “Likandes”, located in San José de Maipo, latitude 33º, Metropolitan Region, in the centre of Chile; and “Melimoyu”, situated in Melimoyu, latitude 44º, in the Aysén Region, in the south of Chile. These territories allow the foundation to conduct scientific research and projects in border ecosystems to compare those results with other experiences around the world.
Both, Fundación CASERTA, and Fundación MERI, are under the umbrella of the same organization which is called Filantropía Cortés Solari.
Talking about comparing results and experiences with other counterparts worldwide, how have you initiated your partnership with Monegasque institutions?
In 2019, the COP25, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, was planned to take place in Chile, but due to political reasons, the event was moved to Madrid and co-organised between the governments of Spain and Chile. At that event, our foundations had an imposing exhibition pavilion, together with the IPCC and the WMO, where we had the opportunity to showcase our latest developments.
Although I have always admired HSH Prince Albert II for his courage and compromise in defence of the environment, during COP25, we took contact with the Foundation Prince Albert II of Monaco and with the Centre Scientifique de Monaco. We established a connection based on our common interests.
Last year, in 2021, during COP26, we joined forces at the same pavilion, which lead to strengthening out relations by organizing various events together. This year, we were invited to come to the Principality, participate in the Monaco Ocean Week, and organise an event together with the Centre Scientifique de Monaco.
We strongly believe that our experience in Latin America is complimentary of the work that the Monegasque organisations are doing worldwide. After all, we are cooperating under Goal 17 about Strategic Partnerships of the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations to promote a more sustainable world!
Now, before we conclude our interview, I know that you are a strong advocate for girls and women’s rights. Based on your experience, what would you tell the next generation of girls and women who want to work towards conserving the environment?
First of all, I would tell them that everything is possible when you have passion for what you do, work hard, and network with people that share the same values and desires. A good team can help you to enhance any idea and allow you to take it to the next level. I am truly fortunate to work with an incredible team of empowered women!
Also, I would like to encourage the next generation of girls and women by saying that a comprehensive and holistic approach to education is fundamental to promoting the changes that this world needs.
Finally, I would like to conclude by saying to them that this is our moment in history, our moment to speak out, shine and get more and more visibility because our time in history is now!
By Juan F. Dávila y Verdin, FRSA