For over a year, the Youth Engagement Thematic Group of the Ramsar Culture Network explored new and enhanced ways of engaging young people around the subject of culture and wetlands. These discussions evolved into to the development of a group of young professionals aimed at advancing youth engagement in the Ramsar Convention’s processes – Youth Engaged in Wetlands (YEW). Driven by the question “How can we move beyond education to genuinely engaging youth in wetland policy and conservation?”, the Youth Engaged in Wetlands team set forth for Dubai to participate at the Ramsar COP13.
Youth Engaged in Wetlands at the Ramsar COP 13 in Dubai, UAE
"Youth are an important asset and key stakeholder for wetland conservation and for achieving a sustainable future." —COP 13 Youth Declaration
THE 13TH CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP 13)
From the 21-29th of October 2018, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands held its 13th Conference of the Contracting Parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This Conference is the major decision-making body of the Ramsar Convention where representatives from all around the world gather with the objective: “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
The Secretariat and the Contracting Parties of Ramsar
A VISION FOR THE YOUTH AND WETLANDS — RAMSAR COP SIDE-EVENT
Hosted by the World Wetland Network, the side-event served to showcase and celebrate inspiring examples of young people leading or involved in wetland conservation projects, sharing their culture’s role in safeguarding the world’s wetlands. The side-event gathered 70+ attendees including COP13 participants and local high school students.
A series of presentations highlighted the diversity of existing youth initiatives on wetland conservation and the different forms that youth engagement can take from practical conservation work to educating other young people on wetlands and their benefits, creating a network to guide research priorities and influencing policy-making. Speakers included: Aysha from the Dubai Youth Council , Elise from the Youth Engaged in Wetlands, Samantha from YouthCAN Samoa on youth in conservation and policy-making, Manouore from the Réseau Africains des Jeunes sur les Zones Humides on youth capacity building and International Youth Program For Wetlands , Takuma and Sreeya from Youth Ramsar Japan on youth participation in wetland conservation from Ramsar COP9 to COP13. A discussion followed, led by Lucía, who invited the attendees to reflect on the presentations and on the next steps for youth engagement in wetland conservation and policy-making.
Awa from Cameroon discussing about Youth Capacity Building for Wetlands
The lively and dynamic discussions that ensued with insightful interventions from high-school students from Dubai and participants from the COP proved the great interest of young people and professionals in the subject. With the backdrop of sounds and images of Australian wetlands provided by Wetland Wander, a celebration of Youth CAN Samoa’s recent Young Wetland Conservation award brought the side-event to a close with many ideas and prospects for Youth Engaged in Wetlands. These discussions then fed into the reflections the next day through the YEW – Visioning Workshop.
Building on the examples of existing youth engagement highlighted during the YEW side-event, the workshop was aimed at taking the discussion a step further towards guiding practical actions to progress the role of youth in the Convention. The Visioning Workshop was led by Lucía, who drew upon the Collaborative Social Learning framework designed by Val Brown (as taught in the International WaterCentre’s Master of Integrated Water Management) as well as experiences from a workshop run in Brisbane (Australia) by Community Praxis and Joanna Macy's book "Coming Back to Life".
The workshop brought together 13 participants for a 5-hour workshop around the question “How can youth effectively participate in policy-making to support our wetlands?”. Through this reflection exercise, the participants elaborated a list of reflections on the current situation of youth engagement and their vision for the future. After exploring some of the enabling and blocking factors of youth engagement, the participants came up with a list of “SMART” actions that each youth member committed to taking as well as an agreement to meet again next year.
YEW Visioning Workshop
YOUTH CLOSING STATEMENT AT COP13
During the COP13, the initial Youth Engaged in Wetlands team grew considerably as we met dedicated young professionals from around the world that made it to the COP by their own initiative. The young professionals came together through the YEW side-event, Visioning Workshop and between activities to discuss the role of youth in wetland conservation and policy making. The enlarged YEW team also engaged with professionals from government representatives and NGO partners. As a result of this week, the Youth Engaged in Wetlands team presented a statement during the closing plenary of Ramsar COP13 in front of 1000+ representatives from governments and organizations. YEW with the support of World Wetland Network called on the parties to fully commit to implementation of the resolutions, and to involve youth in policy making and implementation of the convention. Their statement proposed the theme for Ramsar COP 14 as Youth and Wetlands.
Takuma from Japan and Anne from UAE speaking in front of the whole Ramsar Convention
The full statement presented by Anne Valentina Bourbon and Takuma Satoh is available on the World Wetland Network website.
This participation was made possible by – Conservation Volunteers Australia, the MAVA Foundation for Nature, the World Wetland Network, the Korean Wetland NGO Network and all the Friends of Youth Engaged in Wetlands that contributed to our initiative through our GoFundMe page: Eleanor Geyer, Wetland Activist, Noora Abdallah, Peter Wegener, Wade Hadwen, Jorge Bustamante, Mark Pascoe, Sarah Rea, Leah Barclay, Fernanda Segami, Fernanda Adame, Jody Nash, Louise Duff, Lew Young, Solongo Khurelbaatar, Marivic Kamikasu, Naomi Riskin, Joselino Bautista, Claire Allély, Little Bear, Didier Allély, Rick Sanchez and, five very generous anonymous people.