ASEAN highlights need for youth participation in meeting new global biodiversity targets
As the world prepares to put the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KM GBF) into action, new opportunities have opened for young people to contribute significantly to the achievement of this ambitious yet realistic set of targets towards living in harmony in nature.
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), as the leading entity for biodiversity in the region, kicked off the year with the Youth Biodiversity Leaders (YBL) 2023 Academy held from 30 January to 4 February 2023 in Singapore, hosted by the National Parks Board (NParks) Singapore and organised in partnership with the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), with support from Hanns Seidel Foundation.
The academy focused on preparing 22 selected ASEAN youth who are passionate about biodiversity conservation work and who can lead and initiate national and regional actions that support the achievement of the new set of global biodiversity targets.
“We see the youth, not just as beneficiaries of our conservation efforts, but as strong allies for change,” said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, ACB Executive Director. “They are inquisitive and driven to know about the science behind what is happening around them; they are equipped with skills on harnessing the power of technology to make their voices heard and to make things happen. Our youth of today are the game changers that can help us inspire transformative actions for biodiversity,” she added.
The YBL is a fellowship programme under the ACB’s ASEAN Youth Biodiversity Programme (AYBP) that provides in-depth capacity building and mentorship to youth leaders in biodiversity and aims to increase youth participation in biodiversity governance and strengthen youth-led conservation efforts. It is supported by the European Union through the Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP) Project.
Part of a bigger picture
“The YBL Programme is a timely event in discussing the Kunming-Montreal GBF and how the youth can help implement these targets,” Christian Schwarzer, co-founder of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), said in his welcoming message. “Biodiversity conservation is everybody’s job and the youth are core actors,” he added.
In the recently-adopted biodiversity framework, Target 22 explicitly emphasises equitable, fully inclusive, just, and gender-responsive participation in decision-making of all matters concerning biodiversity, including children and youth.
“The youth are not the leaders of tomorrow but are the leaders of today, our survival lies in your hands,” said Dr. Lena Chan, Senior Director of the International Biodiversity Conservation, National Parks Board Singapore (NParks).
Dr. Chan also encouraged the YBLs to take the part they play in biodiversity conservation seriously and actively, especially during the revision of their country’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and Local Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (LBSAPs).
The reference to youth in the Kunming-Montreal agreement now assures that they have the right to engage. However, this addition is just the beginning, according to GYBN Co-Founder Melina Sukiyama. She then urged the YBLs to ensure that their respective NBSAPs would actually deliver on the rights and equity for all, including women, indigenous peoples, and children and youth.
Learning and building life-long relationships for nature
Dr. Adrian Loo, NParks’ Group Director for Wildlife Management and Senior Director for Community Projects, shared Singapore’s experience on how the country was able to step up to the pressure of achieving a sustainable city within nature.
In Singapore’s case, their government firmly believed that nature is a social leveler, thus, NParks was put under the government’s Ministry of National Development, where infrastructure development is also lodged, to ensure that nature is a priority in its urban development agenda, and in the country’s education curriculum.
“Humans desire for a better environment and future. Thus, we need to frame our minds and strategise in creating a better future for all,” said Dr. Loo.
To better understand the concept of “living in harmony with nature,” the YBLs participated in a tree planting activity under NParks’ One Million Trees Project that aims to regreen Singapore by planting one million trees in the next 10 years; and in a field trip at Pulau Ubin Island, one of Singapore’s last rural communities.
Photo by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity
The YBLs likewise underwent intensive lectures and workshops to enhance their capacities to lead and participate in more holistic biodiversity conservation actions and programmes. They learned to take a systems thinking approach, develop awareness-based systems leadership skills, and had deep discussions about the KMl GBF, NBSAPs and LBSAPs, ASEAN’s biodiversity thrusts, and the youth’s role in them.
The young leaders also created their respective youth roadmaps. These roadmaps will serve as their plans of action towards their participation in the revision and updating of their country’s NBSAPs and LBSAPs, and future national biodiversity activities for youth that they will lead and organise, such as expanding the community of youth for biodiversity and setting up their country’s GYBN chapters.
Through the Academy, the YBLs were also able to network and collaborate with each other and prominent biodiversity conservation leaders, including Singapore’s two ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes, Prof. Leo Tan Hee Win and Prof. Chou Loke Ming.
GYBN, recognised as the official coalition platform of the youth in the Convention on Biological Diversity, encouraged the youth through a series of discussions about inclusivity and meaningful youth engagement, tackling the global biodiversity crisis and transformative change.
To know more about the AYBP, log on to aybp.aseanbiodiversity.org. ##