9 December 2014

GLF youth session: Young professionals want to be involved now, not in the future

By Kate Evans, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

Young people in forestry don’t want to be thought of as the ‘future’ but be involved in important discussions and listened to in the present, was the message from a youth session at the Global Landscapes Forum in Lima, Peru.

“I’m tired of hearing the young generation are the,” said Florent Kaiser, former president of the International Forestry Students Association, in his opening address.

“Why? Because it implies that group is marginal. We tend to be involved in these decision-making processes because youth is ‘colorful,’ youth is ‘dynamic.’

“But actually what we require is to be seriously and honestly involved at the centre of the processes.”

At the youth session, 100 young people under 30 – along with 50 senior professionals – divided into groups to discuss key issues in forestry and brainstorm innovative ideas for integrated land use.

Each group centered around one of the themes of the Global Landscapes Forum: integrated landscape approaches; climate change; the green economy; and sustainable development.

One member of each group then pitched their idea to a ‘dragons’ den’ of science and policy experts for critical feedback and advice.

The ‘dragons’ were Rachel Kyte from the World Bank, CIFOR’s Peter Holmgren, Paola Agostini from TerrAfrica, Andy Jarvis from CCAFS and CIAT, Brazilian UNFCCC negotiator Guilherme do Prado Lima, and Peruvian Ministry of Environment COP20 Youth Liaison officer Irene Hofmeijer Merkeli.

“This is one of the more interesting things I’m going to be doing for all of the COP,” World Bank Group Vice President Rachel Kyte told the pitchers.

“Don’t be comfortable! If you are comfortable you need to leave now – you’re not pitching at the right level. We are dragons!” she said.

Wen-Yu Weng pitched an idea about an online app that would allow coffee drinkers to trace whether the beans come from sustainable supply chains and aimed to improve the livelihoods of small producers.

Claudio Castro suggested that youth be the mediators between the agriculture and environment sectors; and Mona Betour El Zoghbi recommended a global advocacy campaign about the contribution of rural youth to sustainable development and the challenges they face.

Beatriz Zavariz proposed to develop local platforms that would build capacity and distribute power and information about landscape issues – such as a mining project – more equitably on the ground.

The dragons’ response?

“Youth have a lot to offer – you need to use the power of youth to do things differently – use all that creativity you have and don’t be scared of it,” said Andy Jarvis, Leader for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) Flagship 1 program.

“Be bold and excited – don’t feel like the system is against you. Express yourselves and go for it!” he said.

Rachel Kyte urged the young people in the room to be more radical.

“I want to see you running for office, taking the reins of power, running mayoralties and municipal offices,” she said.

“Local government is the weakest link in many situations. Ask yourself what is the most radical solution to that particular problem.”

“We haven’t got time to nibble around the edges. It’s time to force these conversations because otherwise they’re not going to happen – and I don’t think you’ve got time to wait.”