Neil Walkinshaw from NZ is the SPREP Conference Coordinator, working at SPREP to assist in setting up the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, to be held in Fiji 2013. It’s Neil’s first time to attend a Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The youth are here; they are colourful; they are enthusiastic; they are motivated; they are loud and they have a very important message for CBD countries and delegates: More work needs to be done globally to preserve coastal and marine biodiversity and resources. In addition young people should be included in decision making processes to reverse this biodiversity loss – after all, the youth of today will inherit tomorrow’s world.
The youth delegation has been supported by the SCBD, German Development Corporation (GIZ) and other partners. Interestingly people under the age of 30 make up between 40 and 50% of the world’s population – a staggering fact to consider.
This fun-loving delegation consists of 35 ‘messengers’ (youth members) from 5 continents, representing indigenous communities, students, scientists, educators, economists and many more walks of life. These messengers have been fortunate to send time in the Sundarbans, the largest single block of tidal mangrove forest in the world (stretching from Bangladesh into India). While in this part of India the team worked together on preparing their entertaining itinerary for this COP event and developing the youth declaration on conserving coastal and marine biodiversity for sustaining life and livelihoods.
While at the COP11 youth delegates have made their presences felt in a vibrant way. The Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) also made an intervention on behalf of youth and future generations – “we are not here just to whine about problems and ask you to fix them for us. We are here because we want to take responsibility for our own future. We are already committed with our activities back home in reshaping our future. We want to be understood, to be heard.”
Not only have they made their voices heard, the Go4BioDiv International Youth Forum have made a creative and colourful impact on the COP11. Our attention was first drawn to the youth delegation on our first day here with their delightful exhibition booth and papier-mache display – “Mother Nature and the mangrove garden” – check out these fantastic pieces of artwork!
Yesterday, David Sheppard and I attended a Go4BioDiv lunch side event – actually it was a live performance! These 35 highly energetic messengers put on an entertaining show that really pulled everyone’s attention. They took this opportunity to call on COP delegates to work together to do more to preserve biodiversity, particularly coastal marine resources and announced the Go4BioDiv Youth Forum Declaration. Not only were they loud and entertaining their message was highly relevant to the overall COP objectives – by far the best side event I’ve been too here!
After this event I spoke to some of the messengers about their experiences at the COP, Sagar Suri, from India had this to say “After I came here, I learnt that we have common problems and common solutions, it’s been great we can come together to discuss these.We had 35 different points of view, to bring all those together in one common document was a real challenge – but rewarding to get there in the end.” This certainly gave these messengers an idea of what it’s like for the 193 COP delegates to reach a consensus on their documents!
Heather Ketebengang, from the Pacific Island of Palau, commenting on the Sandarbans experience said “it was tough. We lived with and got in touch with nature every day. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other and every ones different experiences and backgrounds. Attending this event (COP11) has been a really good opportunity for me to experience the higher level processes occurring around conservation.” I would also say that the invigorating youth presence has been a great experience for the all the COP delegations as well!
Regarding the where to from here for these youth delegates, Ms Ketebengang replied “my wish and hope is that in the future, my children and grandchildren will get to see Palau the way I do now.” This was a common message to come from the youth members I spoke with, a very important perspective everyone here should remember.
As one messenger put it – “it is us who live with the consequences of today’s actions and inactions, and we are here to create our future!” With these messengers, the outlook for the future is bright indeed.