Biodiversity is life: listen to the youth voices 

Wednesday February 05, 2020

Since attending GESA in 2018 Emma has developed and led activities with young people from the ICCA Consortium and with the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), to give them a voice in decision making that affects them. In this article she highlights global biodiversity events taking place this year and identifies some of the youth engagement techniques she has used. Emma suggests how and why it is necessary to welcome young people into decision making arenas, to give them a platform and to listen to their voices…

By Emma Courtine, Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) 2018 alumna

Considering the speed of the disappearance of local and indigenous languages, increasing acculturation of youth across the world, and the proven link between these two phenomena on biodiversity decline, together with increasing youth migration and changing livelihoods, the conservation community has a critical role to play. By enhancing intergenerational partnerships and learning with youth engagement, biodiversity can be maintained and strengthened. The full, meaningful and effective participation of young people and children is vital in sustaining cultural diversity and territories of life.

There are several ways of involving children and youth in a project, in a movement: from listening to them and encouraging them to engage with decision-making bodies and processes, to creating a space where they can actually implement the things they consider necessary and take decisions together with adults.

UNESCO Man and Biosphere Youth Forum opening ceremony © Emma Courtine

This year marks the end of the ten-year strategic plan made by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 2010 the Aichi Biodiversity Targets were defined and the CBD Conference of Parties (COP) committed to fulfil them by 2020. The evaluation of the past 10 years is ongoing and the targets are being refined. To prepare for this milestone, a series of official meetings are taking place to consider several aspects of the convention and of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, towards the fulfilling of the mission of the CBD: Living in Harmony with Nature. In October 2020, in its next COP (in Kunming, China), the CBD will launch its post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

Looking back at these ten years, the CBD reported that only two or three of its Aichi Biodiversity Targets have been fulfilled, out of 20. The IPBES, the official body mandated by the CBD to assess the state of biodiversity across the world, released a report that is alarming. The political summary and regional reports are available here.

The work of the CBD and of those who implement its recommendations is huge and crucial for the future of our planet. It is increasingly obvious that it is important to involve everybody in the implementation of this convention: youth, women, indigenous people and local communities, young indigenous women – those who are usually the least represented and supported in the UN decision making bodies. If the participation of all is needed for the implementation, then it is even more important to involve everybody in the elaboration of the text!

In 2011, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) was created on the occasion of the CBD COP in Hyderabad, India. It is the official youth constituency of the CBD. GYBN is working on several objectives—the representation and participation of youth in the CBD process, important advocacy work, and on a smaller (national, regional, local) scale, it provides workshops on advocacy, communication, gender issues, project management and capacity building.  GYBN is composed of individual and collective members totalling approximately 600,000 young people. The organisation is entirely youth led with the majority of members from South America, Africa and Asia. 

To prepare the negotiation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (CBD COP 15), GYBN has undertaken several consultations across the world. This will culminate in two following events: the Youth Biodiversity Summit in Japan, April 2020 (young people are invited to apply to participate, the deadline is 5 February) and the Youth Summit in the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN WCC),  in France, June 2020. The programme and registration for this event will be available soon; please follow the links on the IUCN website.

The Global Environments Network (GEN), the ICCA Consortium and the GYBN have commonalities and they are all important movements. They are all disruptive in their own way and offer a critical voice toward the conservation world and the general race for development. They are inclusive toward the populations that are the least represented in the conservation world and are raising discussion topics such as inclusion, privileges, intergenerational equity and governance in conservation. These three movements, are meant to grow and to be aware of each other, to support each other and build together a future where everybody is respected and lives in dignity and happiness.

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