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Vision, Priorities and Demands of the Youth

By Shruthi Kottillil & Sudha Kottillil, GYBN India

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

The hard truth of a socio-ecological crisis is staring at us, is at our very doorstep and we are never running out of examples to prove it. The climate crisis is manifesting in different forms like extreme weather events, increased frequency of natural disasters, breakdown of ecosystem functions, biodiversity loss and species extinctions – events that are no longer alien to us. To add to this, we are also losing out on our cultural diversity and becoming witnesses to forceful evacuations of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs). We don’t need science to keep providing us with evidence, everyone has experienced it and is experiencing it in one form or another and we cannot afford to turn a blind eye. The youth, children, and future generations are going to be the ones who will bear the brunt of these irresponsible human actions, we are the ones who will be affected the most and it is time decision-makers listened to what we have to say.

If you ask youth what their priorities are it is obvious, and likely, you will get varied responses. This is because youth form a part of the general population having diverse values, beliefs, challenges, strengths and backgrounds. What is applicable to a population can most definitely be considered for youth, but this is where the similarities end. This would be clear if people realize that the young generation (over centuries) face challenges that are specific to them. It can’t be hard as no one is immune to this phase of life. This is why through Global Youth Biodiversity Network’s (GYBN) consultations with the youth on the aspect of biodiversity conservation we were able to come up the vision, priority areas and demands that, as we shall see, reflects the core values and beliefs that are slowly unraveling in today's society.

GYBN members having a discussion on youth priorities and actions to push for during the OEWG5 Nairobi negotiations.

GYBN through its wide consultations identified three demands that the youth consider are important and crucial to achieving the target of living in harmony with nature. These include:

  1. Integrity of our life support system, which requires us to adopt actions that will help maintain ecosystem integrity, prevent species extinction & improve their status, address issues related to invasive species, ensure biosafety (especially true for genetically modified organisms, GMOs) and apply ecosystem-based approaches to tackle climate crisis. To put it simply, the natural integrity of Earth’s interlinked ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles should not be tampered with as it’ll affect all living organisms including us, who are a part of nature.

  2. Society living sustainably, which arguably is key to ensuring that any conservation activity turns out to be effective. A profit driven world has gotten this far without any positive impacts on nature, do we really need to go further down this path? Addressing all forms of pollution, reforming subsidies, tackling consumption, production & waste, mainstreaming sustainable values, principles & practices across all sectors, and transformative education are the components that will help us achieve this youth demand.

  3. Equity for nature and people, translates to ensuring that the benefits arising out of utilization of natural resources is shared equally among all stakeholders without bias and discrimination. This also means that nature’s contribution to people like food security, clean water, sustainable livelihoods, and so on should be recognized and ensured for all. Intergenerational equity (i.e., equity within and among generations), human rights and rights of nature as well inclusive and meaningful youth engagement form the backbone of this demand highlighting the need for a transparent and inclusive society. Check out GYBN’s Position Paper to know more about the three youth demands and vision.

CBD in a nutshell PDF can be accessed here. It includes a brief explanation of the CBD process, GYBN and its priorities, and on youth participation.

This leads us to the three priority areas that have been recognized by youth as being critical and crucial for integration into the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Although definitions and scope of the priorities are well explained in a publication called Youth Perspectives for a Transformative Post-2020 GBF, here will be try to break them down further

  1. Intergenerational equity & full and effective youth participation refers to the fairness of participation among generations in biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing. First identified by Edith Brown Weiss in the 1980s, this principle focuses on the value that people are both beneficiaries and custodians of the environment (and its resources) with the obligation to pass it down in no worse condition than it was received.

  2. Transformative education is a holistic diverse approach that considers formal, non-formal and informal forms of education with equal importance. In fact, it goes one step further to encourage people to view issues and the world through an ethical lens and does not dismiss personal experiences as being invaluable.

  3. Rights-based approaches for people and nature, although quite straightforward, is a complex issue that still forms the focus of negotiations where compromises are rare to come by. As the title communicates, it ensures that biodiversity policies, governance, management, monitoring and implementation do not violate human and nature rights.

These youth priorities and demands have been put forth after extensive consultations by GYBN chapters with youth in their countries and presents a unified voice. It shows that the youth are clear in what they want, the changes they want to see and are not going to sit idle to let decisions be made about them and their future without their inclusion. They have proved time and again that they can be allies in the fight against the ongoing ecological and climate crisis and are making significant contributions to reverse the negative human impacts and actions that have brought us to where we are. The power of youth needs to be harnessed if we are to achieve the vision of living in harmony with nature by 2030.

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