Youth participants gathered online for the final day of the Asia Pacific Regional Youth Environment Forum, where discussions during the first part of the day’s agenda day focused on climate change and child rights, sustainable food ecosystems, and ecosystem and planetary health.
Sujay Natson, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, showed statistics indicating that children in the Asia-Pacific region are among the world’s most vulnerable, and emphasized that “the climate crisis is a child rights crisis.”
‘Lilly’ Ralyn Satidtanasarn, a 14-year-old environmental activist from Thailand, discussed her personal journey to environmental activism on plastic waste. She emphasized that the best way to make change is to do so collectively rather than working against each other.
On sustainable food ecosystems, youth speakers urged youth involvement in food cultivation, so as to apply innovation and promote transparency regarding “the journey of food to our plates.”
On ecosystem health, they noted the need for a radical change in food systems, shifting away from a sole focus on agricultural production, to incorporating the goals of livelihood security and planetary health.
In the second part of the day's agenda, subregional breakout groups representing East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, and Southeast Asia collaborated to draft a Declaration of Youth Manifesto to Asia-Pacific environment ministers.
The Declaration of Youth Manifesto highlights the potential for the Asia Pacific Working Group of the Children and Youth Major Group to be an active network that will collaborate with UNEP and relevant regional intergovernmental organizations for environmental governance and conservation. It calls for strengthening the representation of children and young people in each sub-region, especially in the less active East Asian and Pacific sub-regions, which are being “left behind in this process.” The Manifesto addresses the themes of climate, disaster risk reduction and climate action, green jobs, youth participation in biodiversity and forests, and the health of people, food, and ecosystems.
During the closing of the session, youth participants heard video messages from Han Jeoung-ae, Minister of Environment, Republic of Korea, and Tina Birmpili, Deputy Executive Director, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Dechen Tsering, Director, Asia and Pacific Office, UNEP, noted that discussions during this Forum will amplify youth voices from the region at upcoming global events, such as the resumed fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2). She took note of the Forum’s call for accelerated action from governments on green jobs, among other issues.
Jenny Johanson, Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, representing the UNEA-5 Presidency, said the Presidency is committed to ensuring meaningful engagement of all stakeholders, including civil society and youth. She encouraged youth to participate in the process for shaping the resolutions to be adopted by ministers at UNEA-5.2.
Luísa Fragoso, Portugal, Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, highlighted the issue of marine litter and plastic pollution as a priority at UNEA 5.2.
Joshua Amponsem, Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, highlighted the need for coherence across sectors and partnerships, and expressed confidence in the ability of young people to achieve this more quickly than traditional institutions are able to.
In concluding remarks, Rubina Adhikari, Children and Youth Major Group, noted that more than 900 youth had registered from almost every Asia-Pacific country, representing more than 40 countries. Clarence Gio Almoite, Children and Youth Major Group, briefed participants on discussions around upcoming UNEP-related processes. After a lively Q&A session among speakers and participants, Adhikari declared the Forum closed at 4.05 pm Bangkok time.
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