Asia Pacific Regional Youth Environment Forum
The inaugural Asia Pacific Regional Youth Environment Forum officially opened today, ahead of senior officials’ and environment ministers’ meetings that will take place in the week ahead. It is the first time a regional edition of the Youth Forum has convened, albeit as a virtual event.
Zuhair Ahmed Kowshik, Regional Facilitator, Asia Pacific Youth Constituency, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), moderated the opening session. He highlighted expected outcomes: capacity building for environmental action; meaningful youth engagement; and a Youth statement to the forthcoming Regional Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities.
More than 1,000 people registered for the Youth Forum. At the opening session and throughout the day, participants heard from their peers in regional youth networks, as well as from senior UN and government officials.
Dechen Tsering, Director, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP), stressed the need to address inequality in access to modern technologies, especially for marginalized youth.
Grassroots inclusion emerged as a key theme for youth representatives, as they stressed the importance of hearing not only from youth, but also from the poor and persons with disabilities. Forum participants took part in drafting an Outcome Document that will offer a youth perspective to environment ministers when they meet on 7 October. Their work is expected to shape preparations toward the UNEP+50 and Stockholm+50 events in 2022, when UN Member States will commemorate 50 years since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment took place and UNEP was founded.
Sessions highlighted youth contributions to ‘Nature for Climate’, and their perspectives on ‘Nature for Poverty Eradication, Jobs and Economic Prosperity.’ Parallel sessions on International Environmental Law, and a youth segment of the Asia Pacific Science-Policy-Business Forum also took place during the day.
Many speakers emphasized that today’s climate policies will fall hardest on young people. Mahendra Reddy, Minister of Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Fiji, urged young people to be politically active, and to challenge policies that threaten sustainability. He stressed that no one will escape the impacts of climate change, regardless of their location or status in life. Georgina Lloyd Rivera, Regional Coordinator, Environmental Law and Governance, UNEP, highlighted that the UN Human Rights Council this year will consider a resolution to globally recognize the human right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. She welcomed this as a milestone with particular relevance to young people.
Participants discussed ways of engaging in effective climate activism. Some lamented the disparities and injustices stemming from climate impacts, for example, the lack of recognition of the rights of persons displaced by climate-related disasters.
The day closed with a Town Hall session. Participants viewed an award-winning animated film from Bangladesh, ‘Tomorrow,’ which anticipates the impacts of climate change and the actions we can all take for a better future.
Tanya ‘Anya’ Francesca Granados, Head, Youth for Our Planet, called on policymakers to take action to protect the environment, saying, “When our grandchildren ask what we did when the oceans rose to engulf our nations, we hope we can tell them how policymakers across the globe came together to save us all.”
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