Youth from the Pacific need to be engaged in decision-making on biodiversity and conservation issues. This was raised at a youth session held on 26 November as part of the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.
Youth speakers Tyle Rae Chung, Genevieve Jiva and Miliana Iga urged leaders and stakeholders who joined the session to engage young people in nature conservation and biodiversity projects from the onset through to the monitoring and evaluation phase of projects.
“Engage us during the resourcing discussions, recognise our expertise and provide us with constant mentoring. Don’t treat us as ‘after thoughts’,” they said.
Ms Iga, a young agriculturalist from Fiji, reiterated that the role of Pacific youth as “current and future custodians of indigenous knowledge on nature and conservation” had previously been emphasised at international conferences on sustainable development, climate change and environment.
While efforts have been made to better structure the participation of youth with the set-up of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, youth participation in the region on biodiversity and conservation issues remains low.
Organised by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) division, the youth session was designed to explore youth engagement in regional and international nature conservation agenda-setting. The session also provided a platform to discuss ways of ensuring the participation of youth and youth organisations in nature conservation and biodiversity work. It was also an opportunity to establish and strengthen youth collaboration and inclusion in biodiversity and nature conservation work.
Various CROP and UN agencies have been supporting youth participation to ensure they are present and represented when international agendas are set. With half of the world ‘s population under 30, youth inclusion and involvement is imperative as decision’s taken today directly affect the lives of youth as future decision makers.
Another topic of discussion at the conference was the misperception that nature is “getting a break” from humans during the COVID-19 pandemic. With more young people losing their jobs and being forced to “return to the land” for survival, land and ocean resources are at risk of overharvesting, deforestation, illegal mining and wildlife poaching.
Although COVID-19 has provided Pacific young people a platform to observe and learn traditional skills on agriculture, fisheries, language and cultural understanding, there are also fears that the exploitation of land and ocean resources may lead to more challenges in the future; making it more crucial to actively engage youth at all levels of advocacy and interventions relating to biodiversity and conservation.
The youth session also presented an opportunity to speak to the Pacific Youth Development Framework 2014 – 2023 as the policy framework guiding policy and pragmatic interventions in the region and how it should be aligned with draft frameworks on nature and biodiversity.