“We’re well beyond just talking”: Youth closing keynote speech

17 November 2016

The 2016 Global Landscapes Forum has just closed with an announcement that Germany will host the Forum in Bonn as of next year.

Here is what our co-coordinator, Natalia Cisneros had to say in her closing plenary address (video will be available soon).

 

“Dinesh is a young Nepali agriculturalist. He’s developed an online mentoring program to build the skills of young Nepalese agricultural professionals.

Daphne is a youth mentee. Together with her mentor Peace, she’s restoring degraded riverbanks in western Uganda.

Fredy is a young Peruvian forest engineer. At a networking event at the twenty fourteen Global Landscapes Forum he met Robin, a researcher with CIFOR. Together they have helped Peruvian farmers regenerate their plots. Their work will be published in a journal soon.

Last year, 10 young innovators dreamt up an interactive toolkit for integrated catchment management in partnership with Alan Nichol from the International Water Management Institute. They are preparing to pilot the toolkit in Vietnam and Ethiopia next year.

Over 150 youth alumni, each taking their newly-learnt skills and landscapes knowledge back to their home countries. They have stayed connected, applying what they learnt with us in their work, study and daily lives as young landscapes practitioners.

This is the Youth in Landscapes Initiative – a partnership between IFSA: the International Forestry Students Association), YPARD: Young Professionals for Agricultural Development and GAEA: the Global Agroecology Alliance. Together, these organisations represent over 18,000 young people working and studying in agriculture, forestry and agroecology.

Together we unite and empower people between 18-35 years old from diverse backgrounds around the world, to have a voice and affect positive change in our landscapes and livelihoods.

Every year, we bring some of these bright young people to the Global Landscapes Forum, where we run workshops, a mentoring program, a youth session. We plug youth into leadership positions throughout the conference; you may have seen some young people facilitating in your session today.

We help young people feel supported, heard, valued, seen, and proud to speak for themselves. We help them find the strength and capacity to take action. We create the space for young participants to actively engage throughout the GLF.

These stories are just some of the real, and very tangible examples of how our program reaches far beyond the walls of a conference venue each year.

We help young people feel supported, heard, valued, seen, and proud to speak for themselves.

These are some of the many ways we are creating a global community of youth. A community that is working to affect meaningful and positive change across landscapes.

My name is Natalia Cisneros, and this is my community. This is the community that has supported me, from my first experience as a forestry student, IFSA delegate and youth panellist at the Global Landscapes Forum in Peru, to the person that stands proud to speak before you all here today as co-coordinator of the Youth in Landscapes Initiative here in Marrakesh.  

The Youth in Landscapes Initiative has been a part of the Global Landscapes Forum from the start. Since our first program in Warsaw, we have developed the intergenerational capacity of hundreds of GLF delegates, through skill building, networking, mentoring and leadership development.

We have spearheaded new and exciting conference formats, from Dragon’s Dens to skills master-classes, to interactive flipped-classroom workshops. These are now not only a key part of the forum, but are being replicated and implemented at similar events all over the world.

And this year, we have pioneered a whole new approach to designing a conference session, mobilizing our 150 alumni across the world to collaborate – virtually, across multiple time-zones and social media platforms and in only three weeks – to design the youth session that many of you may have attended today. We continually strive for and achieve regional representation; in this year’s case, 4 of our 8 youth facilitators are from the Middle East and North Africa.

This is the level of engagement and collaboration that we should all aspire to, if we want to truly call ourselves a global landscapes forum.

We’re not just focussed on “youth” issues. We’re here to bring key issues that affect not only youth, but the societies that we live in – from rural-urban migration to education and training – to the table.

Our program is not just about youth: it’s about bringing people together to collaborate across boundaries, sectors, and generations in order to achieve a sustainable  future for our global and local landscapes.

Every aspect of our program, from the mentoring initiatives to our youth sessions, is designed to promote inclusive, intergenerational networks and dialogue to aide in achieving this goal.  

We’re not just focussed on “youth” issues. We’re here to bring key issues that affect not only youth, but the societies that we live in – from rural-urban migration to education and training – to the table.

I’m not going to stand here before you and try and convince you of how important young people are, how we need to engage with, mentor and support youth as  emerging landscapes leaders.

I’m not going to go on about how the only way to address intergenerational issues, such as climate change, is by meaningfully involving the generations that will inherit these challenges and experience the impacts they will  bring.

You know this.

I know this.

We’ve had this conversation before.  

Our world is changing rapidly, in ways that we could never have imagined. Environmental degradation, political upheaval, social unrest.

And yet amidst all of this, it is increasingly the younger demographics who are standing out as a voice for hope and for the future we want to imagine. We need to be on the playing field, not on the sidelines.

We’re well beyond just talking. I stand here today calling all of us to action.

GLF wants to connect one billion people by 2020 to create a meaningful movement.

The Youth in Landscapes Initiative must not continue to just be a part of that vision – it must be a core pillar.

And to be a core pillar, we need to work together on a few key things.

First, to reach a billion people we need to massively boost the Initiative’s capacity.

We operate on a tiny budget, with hundreds upon thousands of hours of dedicated volunteer time. This is an incredible feat, but it is becoming unsustainable the bigger we grow.

To achieve our shared vision, we need a full time paid global coordinator. Ideally we would also have funds to pay some of our tireless volunteers who have spearheaded projects like our alumni project map and who have dreams to create a toolkit that enables our youth community to take what we’ve learnt and adapt it, apply it, in their own communities around the world.

This is how you affect change at the scale of a billion people.

Second, to ensure this billion person movement is actually meaningful, it needs to go beyond conference walls and enter the everyday lives of young people.

That’s why we’re asking you to commit resources to a 12 month fellowship program that will enable emerging landscapes leaders to receive training and mentoring, intern at partner organisations, seed fund their ideas, and attend GLF events.

To ensure this billion person movement is actually meaningful, it needs to go beyond conference walls and enter the everyday lives of young people.

Third, we need an actual seat at the table. We are not considered a coordinating partner of the GLF and as a result, many decisions are made without our input or involvement. If we truly want to work together to change the world, you have to let us in.

You’ve seen what we can do – from developing our program here in Marrakesh in just three short weeks, to creating global movement and community of youth in just three years.

If we truly want to work together to change the world, you have to let us in.

I was going to close by saying “Imagine what we can do if we work together”. But you know what? It’s going to take more than imagination to connect a billion people. It’s going to take much more than just talk to affect real-world change.

So, on behalf of youth in landscapes around the world, I stand here and ask you all to join us in taking action.

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