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 Philantropy Cortés Solari and MERI Foundation, shares her thoughts and reflections on her work in Chile and Latin America, as well as 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 more than 20 years of her philanthropical career. In a fascinating one-on-one conversation with her, we had the opportunity to learn more about her environmental commitment and the plans of Philantropy Cortés Solari, of which MERI Foundation is one of its institutions.
Bienvenue a Monaco, Francisca! It is a pleasure having 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.
On your last visit to Monaco, MERI Foundation, part of Philantropy Cortés Solari, played a special role in 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 was dedicated to the economic valorisation of marine ecosystem services, the second addressed the role of innovation technologies in environmental education, while the third one provided an insight into various innovation technologies that promote nature-based solutions and blue carbon. We were delighted to see the auditorium full, with people very interested in the content of these panels. The reception was fantastic and we are delighted with our strategic partnership with the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, and the team of its Scientific Director, Denis Allemand.
In addition, at the event, we had the opportunity to present The Blue Boat Initiative project, which aims to protect the whales located in Northern Patagonia, for their ability to capture 33 tons of CO2 each, the equivalent of 1000 trees!
We also present TerritoriAR, a mobile application that seeks to raise community awareness about the ecosystems that surround us, as well as promote environmental education. We are currently working on the internationalisation of this application to raise awareness of other global ecosystems. The next phase of the project will start 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. Fortunately, I grew up in a family surrounded by strong women that encouraged and stimulated that passion. I remember my childhood spending time with in nature with my beloved pets. Later, during my adulthood, I became aware of the importance of protecting the environment, not only for its beauty or functionality, but also as a way of leaving a legacy for the next generations. In this sense, I consider a multidimensional approach to be fundamental, including work in the environmental, social, cultural and economic areas, in the service of sustainable development.
That is why, more than 20 years ago, with the support of the three Solari Falabella sisters, including my mother, I created the CASERTA Foundation, the first of Philantropy Cortés Solari’s institutions.
Caserta Foundation 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 MERI Foundation. With this organisation, we promote scientific research and environmental education, in partnership with communities, for the conservation of strategic ecosystems and the mitigation of Climate Change.
We began by developing marine and terrestrial ecosystem conservation projects in Northern Patagonia. However, since 2019, the foundation has expanded its territorial coverage to other territories with strategic ecosystems for conservation and Climate Change mitigation.
Currently, MERI Foundation carries out scientific research and environmental education for the conservation of strategic ecosystems in three Natural Laboratories. The first, “Puribeter”, is located in San Pedro de Atacama, latitude 22º, in the north of Chile and the driest desert in the world. The second, “Likandes”, is located at latitude 33º, in central Chile; and the third, “Melimoyu”, is located at latitude 44º, in southern Chile, Northern Patagonia.
These territories allow the foundation to carry out research and scientific projects in strategic ecosystems that allow for comparative experiences with other countries.
Both, Fundación CASERTA and MERI Foundation, are under the umbrella of the same organisation, Philantropty Cortes Solari.
Talking about comparing results and experiences with other counterparts worldwide, how have you initiated your partnership with Monegasque institutions?
From Philantropy Cortés Solari, and together with the IPCC and the WMO, we were in charge of co-organising the Scientific Pavilion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 25, chaired by Chile and held in Madrid in November 2019.
This event was so successful that we developed a strategic collaboration with the IPCC, in order to continue developing the scientific pavilions of successive COPs, and also to develop other outreach in Latin America and Europe.
I have always admired H.S.H. Prince Albert II for his commitment to environmental protection. In this context, during COP26, we made contact with the Prince Albert II Foundation of Monaco and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, to join them in the organisation of the IPCC Scientific Pavilion.
This partnership allowed us to put a strong emphasis on oceans and blue carbon. Also, in November 2021, Nathalie Hilmi, from the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, invited us to a workshop, with other economist and scientists, in other to develop recommendation for ocean conservation and blue carbon.
We strongly believe that our expertise in Latin America complements the work that Monegasque organisations are doing around the world. After all, we are cooperating within the framework of Goal 17 on Strategic Partnerships of the UN 2030 Agenda 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?
Firstly, 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. Talent is not enough. As a woman, we need to prove all the time that we can do everything, as anyone else. I am truly fortunate to work with an incredible team of empowered women, that share those values!
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.
And finally, I would like to conclude by saying to them that this is our moment in history, our moment to speak out and shine and get more and more visibility because our time in history is now!
By Juan F. Dávila y Verdin, FRSA