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Global Youth Biodiversity Network at the Africa Protected Area Congress in Kigali, Rwanda

By Irene N. Kananura, GYBN Uganda

1 September 2022 | Article 4, GYBN Newsletter, Vol.1(1)

The Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) coordinators and members from seven country chapters attended the inaugural Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, Rwanda from 18th to 23rd July this year. More than 2,000 participants from over 80 countries came together to discuss the importance of conservation and Protected Areas (PAs) while celebrating and acknowledging the skills and commitments of Africa to conservation, sustainable use of nature and human well-being. “For People and Nature” being the theme, the Congress identified priority actions to strengthen Africa’s protected and conserved areas in a way that is just, equitable and fair, strengthen the involvement of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs). Congress participants pledged their commitment to act with urgency to address the biodiversity, climate change and health crises, and their relationship to human development and well-being, to promote and enhance a nature-positive outcome.

Several events were conducted at different pavilions during the week where keynote addresses and workshops brought together conservation experts from various fields like the civil society organizations, political leaders, youth, IPLCs and women groups to realize and work towards the common goals of the Kigali Action Plan.

GYBN members on electric motorcycles heading to Nyandungu Eco-tourism Center for the “Welcome to APAC Nature Walk.”

The Congress started on 14th July 2022, prior to the APAC, with a three-day youth pre-congress where some of the GYBN members participated. This brought together 50 youth representatives from all over Africa to share their views and ambitions with the head of the APAC. A Youth Declaration/Position Paper with youth priorities and a Call to Action was developed and presented by youth representatives at the opening ceremony of the APAC on 18th July. The Youth Declaration emphasized the just, equitable and fair participation, and inclusion of youth in conservation planning and implementation as well as the need for financial and technical support for young people to develop sustainable innovations and skills to promote PA conservation.

The GYBN Rwanda chapter led by Mr. Kaje Rodrigue conducted the “Welcome to APAC Nature Walk” at a once restored Nyandungu Eco-Tourism Wetland on 18th July. tIt started with participants using electric motorcycles and bicycles to reach the eco-tourism site where a nature walk was conducted under the theme “Promoting the Use of Clean and Sustainable Transport” in Rwanda. More than a 100 youth participated in the activity where some participants shared with the media the importance of clean and sustainable transport towards creating a clean and healthy environment for people and Nature.

GYBN coordinators and members fully engaged in several panel discussions where they discussed and shared about youth contributions in promoting a sustainable future for Africa’s PAs. Mr. Mugisha Derrick, one of the chapter coordinators from GYBN Uganda who is listed by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) as one of the youngest conservation Giants in Africa also took part in the discussions. “Youth need to start developing action plans that clearly illustrate and define their roles and contributions in implementation of conservation work rather than just writing declarations” Derrick stated, during his presentation at the AWF panel under the theme “Celebrating Africa Conservation Giants.”

On Wednesday 20th July, GYBN Africa conducted a side event at the AWF Pavilion where a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the AWF, represented by the AWF CEO Mr. Kadu Kiwe Sebunya, and GYBN Africa, represented by Kevin Lunzalu (GYBN Kenya). The MOU will look to build a partnership that will focus on mobilizing and empowering African youth to contribute to biodiversity conservation and related governance in the region by offering, among other things, capacity development, skill development, networking, participation opportunities and resources that would aid youth action.

GYBN Africa representative Mr. Kevin Lunzalu (left) and the AWF CEO Mr. Kadu Sebunya (right) signing the MOU for partnership.

The event started with a panel discussion where GYBN Africa chapter coordinators shared their ambitions of what this MOU would yield for the GYBN family and concluded with the signing session. The AWF as an organization has always supported youth from GYBN Africa chapters especially Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe in terms of capacity building for the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at the national level as well as funding their participation in important events including the APAC. This MOU was signed to address a new beginning of an official and well-defined partnership between the two organizations.

On Friday 22nd July, GYBN conducted an intergenerational dialogue on area based conservation at the Youth Pavilion that explored the details of the global call for the protection of 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030, also known as the 30X30 goal. Representatives from GYBN, Atlanta, Youth4Nature, Nature WILD, Youth for MPAs and the Ogiek People’s Development Program were hosted to share their views regarding the topic. During the discussion, panelists addressed key issues around youth engagement such as how youth can ensure their voices are meaningfully considered when negotiating global biodiversity goals while some of the panelists shared their views about the 30X30 vision – what it means for the African countries, how it will be financed, and the youth position and inclusion during planning and implementation stages.

Panel discussions that were held during the session: Left to right - Joshua Aiita (Nature WILD Hub), Paul Kaluki (Youth4Nature), Daniel Kobei (Ogiek People’s Development Program), Samantha Hofmeyr (Youth for MPAs) and Katy Roxburgh (Campaign for Nature).

One of the Speakers from the Campaign for Nature team, Katy Roxburgh, highlighted that the lack of financial resources was one of the main reasons that none of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity’s (UN CBD) Aichi Targets were achieved between 2010 and 2020. She emphasized that resource mobilization is key in the negotiations on the road to COP15 and for the new Post-2020 GBF. Mr. Daniel Kobei from the Ogiek People’s Development Program encouraged youth to embrace documentation as an important step towards building their knowledge and increasing opportunities to achieve their goals in the conservation space.

Speakers also called for increased financial support for IPLCs and youth organizations as they are the ones on the front lines of protecting biodiversity. The session ended with panelists issuing a call to action from governments, donors, philanthropists and all concerned stakeholders to galvanize urgent and effective actions to secure a sustainable future for people and Nature.

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