Categories Events, Global, Governance for the conservation of nature, Newsflash, Secondary Events, World

Without Youth and Children, Nothing is Possible!

By Emma Courtine, Honorary Member and Membership Engagement Coordinator of the ICCA Consortium.

In 2019, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) invited the ICCA Consortium to participate actively in three key events related to youth participation and leadership in the biodiversity conservation arena. GYBN is the constituency for the forum of youth at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The ICCA Consortium has collaborated with GYBN on several occasions before, especially in its policy work related to the CBD. The three events were:

–          The GYBN Regional Youth Capacity-building Workshop for Europe, held in Wassergspreng, Austria, in August 2019. Its goal was to promote a deeper understanding of the biodiversity crisis, and to develop the capacities of about 50 young people across Europe to engage with the CBD at all levels.

​The Austrian Minister for Sustainability and Tourism visiting the GYBN European Workshop. © GYBN

–          The UNESCO Man And Biosphere (MAB) Youth Forum 2019 – Committed to Biodiversity held in Changbaishan, China, in September 2019. This forum brought together about 200 young people from Biosphere Reserves around the world to collaborate and develop an action plan for continued youth engagement in CBD policy and implementation. It was mainly organised by the UNESCO MAB Programme, and supported and facilitated by GYBN.

MAB Youth Forum opening ceremony © Emma Courtine

–          The “Youth Leadership Dialogue toward a shared future in harmony with nature”, held in Paris, France, in November 2019, convened about 30 young leaders from diverse youth constituencies (biodiversity, climate, wetlands, water, and others) to build common ground toward a strong alliance of youth working toward a healthy future. It was mainly organised by the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework – EU Support and supported by Expertise France and GYBN.

Josefa Tauli (ICCA Consortium Honorary Member) explaining the ​International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) role, representation and achievement in the Youth Leadership Dialogue © GYBN

I had the opportunity to participate in each of these meetings, to participate in their elaboration and facilitation and to present what territories of life are, and their role in environmental and cultural conservation. Going into the future, I feel strongly that more direct representation by young people who are from actual territories of life is needed in these arenas.

It has been very refreshing to participate in meetings in which the average age is 25, where young people talk seriously about the impact of European/North American countries (and others!), and how their trade policies and research practices affect biodiversity globally. Most of the participants in these three arenas agreed that the Indigenous cosmovision (a Spanish word that expresses a way of seeing/perceiving the world) must be taken into account and even enhanced in order to achieve environmental goals. Another key moment was the sobering reminder, during the opening address of the MAB Youth Forum, of the killing of environmental defenders. In these opening words and echoed in the declaration issued at the end of this forum, ICCAs- territories of life were clearly identified as leading the way in nature conservation, and they represent existing opportunities and solutions which should be properly recognised and secured.

Together with others,youth from Inciativa Comunales (ICCA Consortium Member in Spain) participating in the GYBN European workshop © GYBN

One of the main goals of these gatherings was to contribute to the elaboration and development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the CBD, as well as to prepare for the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (CBD COP 15), to be held in Kunming, China, in October 2020, where the ICCA Consortium will also be active. (See the two following articles for more information: The Journey to Kunming 1 and The Journey to Kunming 2). Beyond this, other opportunities lie ahead for youth and children. The Youth Leadership Dialogue will continue until the CBD COP 15; the GYBN Youth Summit is coming up (Japan, April 2020); and there will be youth participation in the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Nature Conservation ( IUCN WCC) (France, June 2020); as well as in the CBD COP 15 (China, October 2020). All these events will be extremely important, and young people and children who represent territories of life should be actively present at every one of them!

In the face of the extremely fast phenomena of acculturation and the accompanying disappearance of local and indigenous languages and cultures, and of youth outmigration and the changing livelihoods of the young, the ICCA Consortium has a critical role to play in enhancing intergenerational partnerships and learning, as well as youth engagement. We need to highlight the fact that the full, meaningful, and effective participation of young people and children is vital in sustaining cultural diversity and territories of life.

Here are some steps we could take together:

  • Let us continue tirelessly to enhance the pride of youth and children in their local and indigenous cultures, identities, and livelihoods, and to recognise their individual assets and strengths.
  • Let us continue tirelessly to explain how nature and culture can only exist hand in hand.
  • Let us continue to promote intergenerational partnerships and learning to the greatest extent possible.
  • Let us remember that, just as for other minorities or undermined stakeholders, youth and children must have voices and full participation in all decision-making spaces and processes.
  • We must not only listen to young representatives with a kind smile and indulgent look; we should empower the young and encourage them to initiate and implement decisions, and to take action in their territories of life together with adults and elders.
  • Let us select participants who represent or support territories of life in developing countries and regions, not only European or North American youth or those from privileged socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Let us commit to providing the active training these young people will need to understand the work, mission, and history of the ICCA Consortium and the tools and partnerships the ICCA Consortium has built in its work to sustain, document, and defend territories of life.
  • Let us ensure that the agenda and issues of youth are embedded within all three themes of the Consortium: sustaining, documenting, and defending.
  • We must represent the ICCA Consortium and convey the value of territories of life wherever there are forums and networks dedicated to, or organised by, young people.

During its recent General Assembly in December 2019, in Udaipur, Rajasthan, the Members of the ICCA Consortium elected several young leaders who are not only bringing their voices, experiences and concerns to the Council, but also demonstrating how essential they are at this level, and how much they merit our trust. Indeed, most of them had already been nominated by Members at the regional level in these positions, or proposed by regional coordinators and supported by Members! Mihanta Tsiorisoa Bakoliarimisa (Madagascar), Dr Sudeep Jana Thing (Nepal), and Lucas Quintupuray (Argentina), agreed to lead and facilitate the meaningful participation and leadership of youth from territories of life as members of the Youth Committee that was approved during the first meeting of the new Council. During the General Assembly, young representatives from Member organisations and Honorary members spontaneously decided to create a platform and organise a mailing list in order to communicate, support each other, share opportunities and experiences, and build stronger projects and programmes together, including future exchanges!

Discussing Territories of Life overlapping with Biosphere Reserves at the MAB Youth Forum © GYBN

Please do contact me (emma@iccaconsortium.org) or Sudeep (janasudeep@gmail.com) if you wish to join and contribute to the Consortium’s Youth Working Group, or if your organisations wish to be included in any of these events.

Featured image : Glimpse of the GYBN European Workshop © GYBN