Future in peace, equity and in harmony with nature “an intergenerational perspective”

Melina Sakiyama
Co-founder, Global Youth Biodiversity Network
MIDORI Prize Winner 2020

As we reach the end of the 2011-2020 decade, world governments are running against time in order to negotiate and define new global targets and commitments that can successfully curb our ecological crisis.

In the past 10 years, we have gained more knowledge, more tools, more awareness and more coordinated action towards both the climate and biodiversity crisis. The results, however, are very disappointing, with the world failing in achieving most of the global goals and targets agreed through multilateral environmental processes (Kyoto Protocol, Millenium Development Goals, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, etc). This major political failure has been followed by a drastic decline in the health of our ecosystems and physical systems, further aggravating the climate and biodiversity crisis.

During the same 10 years, the youth movement has expanded and flourished as young people were able to empower themselves, to take part in decision-making and advocate for their own rights. Children and youth are still marginalized and are found in vulnerable situations in most countries of the world, but recent coordinated efforts have led to the development of several policies and legal and institutional arrangements to address these power asymmetries, giving space to young people to voice their perspectives and influence decisions that will affect their lives.

In this context, the Global youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) has been created as collective youth-led effort to empower, mobilize and coordinate youth action and engagement in biodiversity governance, and was able to ignite a global movement, bringing together the hearts, minds and souls of young people around the world that are passionate and committed to reshape our society to one that can live in harmony with nature. After 10 years of engagement and youth-led contributions to biodiversity, it brings together more than a million young people in more than 145 countries in the world.

GYBN has started a consultative process in order to gather the voices and perspectives of young people on the future of biodiversity, and youth representatives from more than 130 countries have voiced their desire to help build a world that is reconnected with nature, that celebrates its diversity, appreciates all of its blessings and recognizes that we are part of it.

COP10 youth seat

Young people are yearning for a world that fosters equity for nature and people, sustainable living and keeps the integrity of our biodiversity, which truly is our life-supporting system. (www.gybn.org/policy)

Young people around the world understand that the ecological crisis encroaching on our livelihoods and future on Earth is deeply connected to the underlying inequalities and power asymmetries that shape our economic and social systems. Furthermore, these systems are underpinned by values, beliefs and principles that reinforce these inequalities and hinder progress towards a just and sustainable future.

The recent IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services shows that transformations towards sustainability are more likely when efforts are directed at key leverage points including values and action; inequalities; justice and inclusion in conservation; reducing consumption and waste; education and knowledge generation and sharing; and recognizing diverse visions of a good life.

Following this understanding, young people recognize that short-term, quick-fixes and shallow solutions are not the answer to address deep societal struggles rooted in core values and principles mainstreamed in modern society.

COP11 Youth

The world’s biggest problems stem from systemic inequalities with historical roots that continue to the present. These can only be solved through a profound, systemic, whole of society transformation and the unwavering pursuit of social justice, from values, principles and behaviours, to institutions, political, legal and economic systems.

2020 was supposed to be the year for the whole world to galvanize support to make this commitment towards this transformation, towards this shared vision for the future. However, 2020 has been very different – Our society was disrupted by a global pandemic brought to us by our own degradation of our ecosystems, pushing us very close to the brink: break it or make it? Can we overcome our resistance to change our values, principles and practices and start moving towards this vision of a future in peace, equity and harmony with nature?

While governments, corporations and institutions are still paralyzed and reluctant to step towards transformation, young people are taking ownership over their future and leading by example. Global movements such as #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, Fridays for Future and so many other groups are using creativity and collective action to bring change to the ground and push those that actually have the power, the responsibility and the resources to make commitments and take actions to tackle this ecological crisis.

How can we all support this movement?

  1. Engage in intergenerational dialogues and discussions, bringing youth representatives, youth groups and organizations to voice their perspectives and ideas
  2. Support youth-led initiatives financially and in-kind allowing for young people to take ownership of their own actions and implement their ideas
  3. Promote full and effective participation of young people in decision-making, planning and implementation processes
  4. Respect and fulfill young people’s rights and intergenerational equity (fairness and justice between and within generations): Stop youth tokenism, manipulation and use of young people’s labour without proper compensation

Young people around the world are taking the lead and showing the way forward! GYBN invites all of you to join the movement!