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The United Nations proclaims 20 May as World Bee Day

Respect for bees also guarantees the survival of humans

The United Nations General Assembly in New York unanimously adopted a decision proclaiming 20 May World Bee Day on 20 December 2017. This success is the result of cooperation between the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, as an initiator, and the Republic of Slovenia.

It was a morning in September 2014 when Boštjan Noč, the president of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association, was driving to work and listening to a radio programme about world days and their significance. This is when he got the idea that bees should have their world day, too, because every third spoonful of food in the world depends on bees, and bees are becoming more endangered each day. He communicated his idea to the management of the Slovenian Beekeeping Association on the very same day, and proposed that 20 May should be proclaimed as the World Bee Day.

The initiative convinced the Beekeeping Association and afterwards the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Dejan Židan, who made a commitment that the Ministry would make efforts for the realisation of World Bee Day. The idea was then supported by Borut Pahor, the President of Slovenia, and, in the spring of 2015, by the entire Government of the Republic of Slovenia. The Government established a special interdepartmental project team headed by the Minister of Agriculture that made it its objective to achieve the goals of the initiative.

Photo: Jošt Gantar

A Day Deliberately Chosen

Slovenia proposed the celebration of World Bee Day in the month of May for several reasons. First, this is when bees in the northern hemisphere are most active and begin to reproduce. This is also the period in which the need for pollination is greatest. In the southern hemisphere it is autumn, a time for harvesting bee products and of days and weeks of honey. The specific day chosen, 20 May, is the birthday of Anton Janša (1734–1773), a pioneer of modern beekeeping and one of the greatest experts in this field in his day.

A Challenging Path from the Idea to Adoption

This was the beginning of a three-year period of intense informing and lobbying of various publics around the world. Slovenia organised or took part in a number of professional and political conferences to discuss the issue. In order to find support, it presented the initiative to ministers and other statesmen, both within the European Union and across the world, as well as in international organisations. In terms of beekeeping, the key event was the 44th international congress of Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations, in South Korea, where the initiative was unanimously confirmed by beekeepers from all over the globe.

The most important and challenging task, however, was the official procedure for the realisation of the initiative, which continued for over a year and a half with various United Nations Organisations, first the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Rome and then at the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization in New York. Countless documents had to be drafted and other tasks completed in order to obtain official support from each individual member state active in these organisations.

"It was clear from the discussions held with representatives of states around the world that the they had long been aware of the importance of bees, pollination and apiculture, but that nobody had come up with such an initiative," said Snežana Popovič, head of the Service of Coordination and International Affairs and the leader of the project team for the proclamation of the World Bee Day at the Ministry of Agriculture.

With the aim of raising awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinators, and their key role for the agriculture, environment and the human race in general, Slovenia designed an interactive exhibition entitled "The Bee World". The pavilion was first presented to the public at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) during the 25th session of the Committee on Agriculture in September 2016. Then it toured numerous cities around the world (including at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, the congress of Apimondia in Istanbul, Turkey, an international fair in Hong Kong, China, and the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, USA).

"Bees connect and unite us, which is of enormous importance in today's world, full of unrest and conflict." Dejan Židan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the Republic of Slovenia, and the head of the World Bee Day project. Photo:MAFF Archives

As a part of the awareness-raising campaign about bees, Slovenia launched the so-called honey breakfast even before making the initiative for World Bee Day.  It was first organised in 2007, when Slovenian beekeepers offered children in kindergartens and schools honey for breakfast. Since then we have held several presentations and workshops for children about the importance of bees for our food supply, with a focus on the preservation of a clean, healthy environment and countryside as a part of this education and promotional campaign. On the basis of this good practice, Slovenia launched an initiative at the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels to introduce a European honey breakfast in March 2014. It was adopted by many EU Member States, as well as other countries.

After more than three years of efforts, Slovenia's initiative was actively supported by 115 countries from all over the world, including the biggest, e.g. the USA, Canada, China, the Russian Federation, India, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and the European Union. The resolution for the proclamation of World Bee Day was unanimously confirmed by the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 20 December 2017, and 20 May was thus proclaimed the annual World Bee Day.

Text by: Jernej Kovač
Source: Sinfo