Fijian youths call for inclusive engagement in the design of nature-based solutions and actions
August 16, 2022
“Give young people their space today to be part of the decisions concerning their tomorrow. Hear us! See us!,” said 24-year-old Mesake Leitabu. This was part of the sentiments of young passionate environment advocates from Fiji who voiced their concerns in the Fiji consultations for the Stockholm+50 global meeting in early June this year.
In the Swedish capital, around 300 young people participated in this meeting, along with several thousands joining online. More than 700 also played a role in the Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force preparations for the meeting.
As part of Fiji’s preparations to the Stockholm+50 Conference, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji with funding from the Government of Sweden, held a youth consultation in Suva in May, bringing together around 30 participants (19 of them females), representing indigenous communities, marginalized groups, civil society, and non-government organizations in the country.
Youth advocacy for Stockholm+50 began as early as February 2022, on the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, where young people organised a dedicated Youth Assembly. At the second session of the youth assembly in Stockholm, participants met with UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake, to express their views on critical issues affecting younger generations. They called for the mainstreaming of youth engagement in environmental and multilateral processes on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP 27) to be held from 6 - 18 November.
Similar sentiments to youth advocates in Fiji were amplified from around the globe. “Change is coming,” said Wickramanayake. We will continue to fight for our [youth] voices to be heard at the decision-making table.”
“We need to trust and believe in young people,” said Vsevolod Lukashenok, Programme Manager for the Y Movement. We need to listen to their needs instead of imposing assumptions of what we think they need.”
The Youth Task Force agreed to the Global Youth Policy Paper, which is the result of regional consultations hosted by civil society youth networks and grass-roots organizations. In it, young people demand that governments focus on four main pillars: actions for a healthy planet, COVID-19 recovery, the environmental dimension of sustainable development, and ensuring inclusive decision-making.
“Pacific youth are at the forefront of protecting our islands, our oceans, and our planet. We hope that our leaders will continue to push our voices and stories,” says Suzanne Turaganiwai, youth participant and post-graduate student at the University of the South Pacific (USP). The 29-year-old also runs a marine debris activism account on Instagram called “benu ni waitui” (translated “marine litter”).
Suzanne collects and upcycles marine debris into colourful works that can be seen on her Instagram account. Her hope is that her art will help inspire others to become ocean stewards and more thoughtful about their waste production.
The Global Youth Policy Paper calls for governments to commit to their National Determined Contributions (NCDs), hold major polluters accountable for their environmental damage, and protect and restore ecosystems.
“The policy paper and recommendation represent months of work, volunteering and dedication from a task force that ensured that all constituencies, within and outside the UN, were properly heard and represented for a common recommendation,” said UN Youth Envoy Wickramanayake.
The youth advocates in Fiji identified certain challenges, highlighting intergenerational and intersectional dialogues and engagement are lacking; limited opportunity for marginalized communities and groups for meaningful engagement and called for a Youth Information Hub that is available and accessible to young people of all diversities and abilities to be managed by a mandated body. “We demand support for action that recognises integrating traditional knowledge and practices and nature-based solution,” they added.
At Stockholm +50, 16 Member States committed to preserving the needs of future generations. Leaders of the host nations, H.E. Keriako Tobiko, Kenyan Minister of Environment and Forestry, and H.E. Annika Strandhäll, Swedish Minister for Climate and the Environment, presented a joint ministerial statement on a Common Agenda for Future Generations.
In it, they are committed to: preserve the needs and interests of future generations, promote the meaningful participation of young people, safeguard life on earth and increase efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, and help forge a new global consensus on what our future should look like.
The joint ministerial statement was supported by honourable representatives from: Albania, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Maldives, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Zambia. Read more: http://bit.ly/3IChCNa
The infographic below summarizes Fiji’s youth consultations held pre-Stockholm+50.
Salote Nasolo of the University of the South Pacific and an environmental activist reflected on the urgent need for actions for our environment. “Thirty to fifty years from now, it will be 30-50 years too late. I will not go down without a fight. I will take ownership and responsibility for protecting my land and my vanua.”
“We have only one earth and time is running out” was the resounding plea from young people. “We have become the biggest threat to mother earth itself! We don’t give back; we are always taking. Enough of dialogues, it's time for actions, it's time to translate what we put in writing, into action,” says Epeli Lalagavesi of the Uto ni Yalo Trust (a non-government organisation dedicated to reviving Fiji's sustainable sea transportation.)
"It’s important for world leaders to hear us out and we will continue to advocate for youth to have a seat at the table," shares Watisoni Nata of Young Entrepreneurs Council.
To secure a future where all generations can live in prosperity and harmony with nature, Stockholm+50 reiterated the need to support the inclusive participation of Youth in the decision-making process at all levels.
To download infographic click on this link: Youth Infographics