Is it better for youth to shake up the landscape restoration movement through grassroots protest or by brewing change from within?
Maybe a little of both, argues a new analysis of youth engagement in the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Youth in Landscapes (YIL) Initiative in the journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.
The inaugural YIL event, which was held in Lima on the sidelines of the U.N. climate talks, has since become a regular component of GLF conferences, which are science-policy events aimed at building partnerships and dialogue around landscape sustainability efforts.
Collaborative, intergenerational learning among conference delegates demonstrated benefits in the GLF setting, allowing youth aged 18 to 30 to establish productive networks and lasting connections, the paper states.
“Empowering young people to play an active role in development and policy processes is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and meeting urgent plans to address climate change,” write the authors of the paper, who were also involved in coordinating the 2014 YIL program.
It is important to build knowledge and leadership skills of youth to promote their engagement in environmental issues and empower them to affect positive change in local and global communities, they state.
Aims of the YIL programs include building the capacity of youth delegates to more actively participate in conference proceedings and to contribute to and lead discussions on key conference themes. A key focus is also on promoting intergenerational knowledge exchange and networking and supporting mentorship of youth delegates.
Youth delegates reported learning new skills, including the importance of pitching ideas and how to apply what they had learned to projects or even job interviews.
After full involvement in panel presentations and discussions, the delegates felt empowered because they were no longer seen only as youth, the paper states.
Master classes involving specialists in landscape initiatives also provided opportunities for youth to expand their outlook.
“Dedicated skills and community building programs, combined with provision of and training for youth leadership roles, mentoring and facilitated youth discussion are considered key success factors for meaningful youth participation in conferences and associated science-policy processes,” according to the paper.
While the authors determined that there was limited evidence that youth perspectives were considered in broader 2014 conference outcomes, their analysis suggests that participation in the YIL program resulted in many youth feeling empowered to affect change in their local landscapes and communities. Furthermore, many of the key recommendations presented in this paper – including holding pre-conference skill-building workshops and youth discussions; mentoring programs; and full involvement of youth in core conference proceedings – have formed a core part of YIL programs at subsequent GLF events.
At the forthcoming GLF in Bonn, youth feature highly on the agenda, from a dedicated Youth Plenary to a YIL discussion forum, and 50 youth delegates have been partnered with senior mentors.
“Young and senior people alike need to advocate for explicit inclusion and discussion of youth initiatives and youth perspectives during conferences,” the paper states.