The first-ever virtual Flyway Youth Forum, organized by The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) and Youth Engaged in Wetlands (YEW), sponsored by Hanns Seidel Foundation, was successfully taken place over two weekends from 28-29 November and 5-6 December, 2020. A total number of 134 attendees, including 87 selected youth leaders from 26 countries or regions, 28 trainers, speakers and facilitators participated in the virtual event. Young people were connected and empowered through Youth presentations, a series of five training workshops on Youth Advocacy in Global Policy Agendas, Effective Campaigning, Local community Engagement, Field Research & Monitoring and Environmental Justice, and provided with a platform for dialogue during the Flyway World Café. At the end of the Forum, the “Declaration of the 2020 Flyway Youth Forum Participants” drafted by the youth participants was delivered.
Day 1: Opening Ceremony & Youth Presentation
On 28 November, it was a monumental day for kickstarting the Flyway Youth Forum. There were 190 participants joined the virtual event, and about 2800 views on the Facebook Livestream.
In her opening keynote speech, Dr. Jane Goodall, Founder of Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace encouraged young people to use their energy and passion to contribute to the conservation of migratory waterbirds and the flyways they depend on. The second Keynote speaker, Ms. Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of Ramsar Convention Secretariat expressed the need for the youth to take the lead in conservation actions. Mr. Doug Watkins, Chief Executive of EAAFP, then gave a welcoming remark. He recognized that youth are the driving force for the change required for the world to work in harmony with nature. The opening ceremony closed by an energetic song “Migratory Birds” in Burmese produced by Nature Conservation Society-Myanmar.
The event then went on with EAAFP Secretariat and YEW giving brief introduction of wetlands, migratory waterbirds, EAAFP and YEW. After that, was the highlight of Day 1 “Youth Presentation” session, where eight youth speakers with diverse experiences and backgrounds shared their work to inspire the young participants to play a part in the conservation of wetlands and migratory waterbirds. The youth speakers were: Vandandorj Sumiya from Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia; Takuma Satoh from Youth Ramsar Japan; Team SPOON, a group aiming to raise awareness of the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill; Jord Gadingan from Sa Ngalan ng Lawa Philippines, Pyae Phyo Aung from Nature Conservation Society-Myanmar; Chairunas Putra from WHIS Indonesia; as well as two speakers from another flyway: Hugo Ferreira from University of Aveiro; Frankie Turk from RE-PEAT which based in the Netherland. All these youth-led activities and sharing were inspiring and encouraging to youth participants on engaging wetland conservation activities.
Day 2: Capacity Building – Training workshops on “Youth Advocacy in Global Policy Agendas” and “Effective Communication”
Training Workshop “Youth Advocacy in Global Policy Agendas”
On 29 November, the Forum began with the training workshop “Youth Advocacy in Global Policy Agendas” led by Elise Allely-Ferme and moderated by Bidhya Sharma from YEW. The objective of the training session is to provide overview of “advocacy”, opportunities for youth in global policy agendas and introduce different ways of doing advocacy to global policy agendas, such as the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals, in relation to wetlands and migratory waterbirds conservation.
Four amazing speakers were invited to share their work and experience on advocating related global agenda. Melina Sakiyama from Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) introduced the Convention of Biodivesity and the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework and the work of GYBN; Mark Raquino coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network Southeast Asia continue to elaborate with examples in the ASEAN region of what the GYBN do to allow youth to engage in advocating nature-related policies at national level; Linka Lin from Youth Co-Lab shared innovative campaigns to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals; and Bethany Copsey from Re-PEAT shared the use of anthology, a creative idea to promote the European Union Common Agricultural Policy. Afterwards, the 87 participants joined breakout groups to discussion on topics about how youth engaged in advocacy in polices.
Training workshop “Effective Communication – A Voice for Out Wetlands Communications, Science, and Storytelling”
The second training session “Effective Communication – A Voice for Out Wetlands Communications, Science, and Storytelling” was led by Sacha Dench, Ambassador of Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), founder of Conservation Without Borders, and moderated by Gab Mejia from YEW. Sacha Dench elaborated how the storytelling with scientific support is important in nature conservation, and by sharing her own experience of “flying with the swan” to illustrate a creative way to raise awareness to the public and the decision-makers. After that, the participants were divided into 7 breakout groups and were given a different scenario with guidance to create a campaign concept accordingly in 25 minutes. The breakout session led to fruitful discussions. The session closed in an overall recommendation by Sacha Dench after all the groups presented their campaign concepts.
Day 3: Capacity Building – Training workshops on “Local Community Engagement”, “Field Research and Monitoring” and “Environmental Justice and Engaging Marginalized Youth”
Training Workshop “Local Community Engagement”
Starting the Day 3 of the Flyway Youth Forum on 5th December, Forum Participants had a chance to learn about “Local Community Engagement” with Alejandro Betancourth and Pilar Gómez as they shared their lessons learned from the participatory ecological restoration project that they led with their team in Mexico, in the Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve PACC.
After presenting the main concepts behind community-based conservation, Alejandro and Pilar shared the key steps for local community engagement based on their successful experience in Pantanos de Centla, highlighting that local community engagement is both a means and an end. An insightful Question and Answer session followed where participants were curious to hear about how the team overcame specific challenges like initiating dialogue, dealing with conflict and language barriers and shared their own challenges and experiences. Participants were then invited to go into breakout groups to explore the role of youth in community-based conservation projects and the main challenges they may face. Alejandro and Pilar delivered a greatly insightful session, sharing some core principles and values for meaningful engagement of local communities applicable in any conservation project anywhere along the flyway and in the world.
Training Workshop “Field Research and Monitoring”
In the afternoon, the Forum resumed, with Professor Richard Fuller from the University of Queensland as the trainer to the session “Field Research and Monitoring” and Mr Augustine Chung from WWF Hong Kong supported to share citizen science projects.
Building from his own research and monitoring experience, Prog. Fuller gave some insights and tips to participants as they seek to develop conservation research and monitoring projects, highlighting key questions for self-reflection to ensure that research is useful and the principles of a good monitoring plan. Participants got a feel for the diversity of disciplines that contribute to bringing information to actions. Sharing tips and challenges in research projects, Prof. Fuller emphasized the importance of developing a relationship with decision-makers and stakeholders.
Augustine Chung from WWF-HK then shared some insights on citizen science and how to develop and implement a citizen science program and how the information feedback for site management. Participants learned about the principles for organizing a Citizen Science activity, the different levels of engagement that programs can reach. After giving some insightful tips and consideration on how to prepare such a program, Augustine shared some current example of citizen science activities including current youth-led or participated projects.
Training Workshop “Environmental Justice and Engaging Marginalized Youth”
The last training workshop “Environmental Justice and Engaging Marginalized Youth” was led by Sefa Cariño Tauli from Global Youth Biodiversity Network and Mark Raquino from Global Youth Biodiversity Network South East Asia. With the objective of gaining consciousness about the issues around environmental justice and to explore what each one of us can do or is already doing towards inclusive wetland conservation, Sefa and Mark led participants on a reflective journey of environmental justice, coming together to share experiences and learn new tools.
Opening with a traditional song from Children of the Cordillera (Philippines) called “Remember your children”, participants explored the meaning of environmental justice and how different groups are more at risk from environmental harm. Breaking out into discussion groups, participants had a moment to reflect on their personal experiences and observation on environmental justice or injustice.
An inspiring video message from Dr. David Boyd, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, highlighted the gap in the implementation of the fundamental Human Right for everyone, everywhere to live in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment as well as the necessity to empower marginalized communities and individuals to protect biodiversity.
Sefa then shared inspiring words, highlighting young people, women, indigenous peoples and local communities as agents of change whose role is central to achieving environmental justice: “even though we are being marginalized, we don’t belong in the margins”. After Sefa presented a combination of suggestions, advice and key questions for each one of us to self-reflect on, Mark opened the floor for questions showing the high level of interest and relevance these questions have for participants across the Flyway. He also created a synthesis to summarize the points from the discussion.
Day 4 “Flyway World Café” and ” From Discussion to Action”
Flyway World Café
The last day of the Forum started off with an interactive Flyway World Café led by Facilitator and “Café Owner” Mika Tan from the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.
Visualizing themselves in a nice little café, participants were invited to take everything that they have been learning and exchanging about throughout the Forum and take part in a conversation around the question “What are the enabling conditions for youth engagement in wetland and migratory waterbird conservation?”. This session of the Forum was exceptionally open to guests, inviting anyone curious and interested to join the Café and share their insights into this key question.
The Café started off with a series of four excellent presentations, setting the scene for this conversation. Inspiring and examples of youth engagement were showcased at the international level with Mr. Nick Crameri from the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the national level with Ms. Tomoko Ichikawa from the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, at the local level with Ms. Charlie Jones from the Peel Harvey Catchment Council and at the science level with Professor Nick Davidson. These thought-provoking presentations provided a great introduction to the following discussion exploring the question at the international, national and local levels.
Breaking up into groups, moving to their virtual café tables, participants thoughtfully highlighted key challenges which they perceive or experience at these different levels from language barriers and the lack of platforms at the international level, to the lack of prioritization of conservation at the national level, and the general lack of paid opportunities for sustainable youth participation in conservation. Sharing personal experiences and learnings that they gathered during the Forum, participants put forward opportunities for stronger and meaningful youth participation such as having support structures and platforms, connections and networks, building trust and being inclusive.
As a highlight of the Flyway Youth Forum, the thoughtful conversations that were created around this World Café were a perfect transition to the next steps and key question “What now?”.
From Discussion to Action
In this session, Elise Allély-Fermé of YEW lead an open space discussion on the next steps following the Forum. Participants were invited to share their at least one action that they commit to once the Forum is over, whether big or small, highlighting opportunities for collaboration with other youth and sharing their ideas of how they will put what they learned into action. The following 2021 timetable showcases the great dedication, motivation and creativity of the participants.
Wrapping up and closing ceremony
Declaration Drafting Team members Matthew Vincent G. Tabilog and Chen Foong Ling presented the teams plans for the Flyway Youth Forum Declaration, presented hereafter. Please click here for the Youth Declaration.
As a special surprise for the closing ceremony, folk singer Sam Lee gave a closing speech and performance, translating the idea that wetlands are a powerful place of exchange into song. Lee sang acapella an ancient song from the Scottish travel people called “Moorlough Maggie”, which expresses a deep reverence and devotion to the wetlands – a song of gratitude for these natural ecosystems and what they do for us. A beautiful, poetic and inspiring closure to a transformative journey along the Flyway!
Conclusion and Acknowledgement
The Flyway Youth Forum had achieved its objectives on:
- Networking: Connect young people engaged in wetland and migratory waterbirds conservation
- Youth Voices and Dialogue: Provide a platform for youth to share experiences, exchange ideas and an intergenerational dialogue for stakeholders in the field of wetland and migratory waterbirds conservation. A Youth Declaration was developed by the participants.
- Capacity Building and Empower: Provide key introductory training sessions on topics related to the field of W&MW Conservation. A collaborative action plan is established to bring collective actions.
We would like to express our gratitude to the people below for making this wonderful, first-ever Flyway Youth Forum became true:
- Our advisors: Tomoko Ichikawa, Mika Tan, Mark Raquino, Chris Rostron, Suh Seung Oh, Hyejeong Yang for their tremendous support and guidance
- Our Sponsor Hanns Seidel Foundation
- The Keynote Speakers: Dr. Jane Goodall, Founder of Jane Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots, and Ms. Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary-General of Ramsar Secretariat
- Our trainers: Sacha Dench, Prof. Richard Fuller, Alejandro Betancourth and Pilar Gómez, Sefa Cariño Tauli, Elise Allely; Session speakers: Nick Crameri, Tomoko Ichikawa, Charlie Jones Prof. Nick Davidson, Vandandorj Sumiya, Takuma Satoh, Team SPOON, Jord Gadingan, Pyae Phyo Aung, Chairunas Putra, Hugo Ferreira, Frankie Turkand, Melina Sakiyama, Mark Raquino, Linka Lin, Bethany Copsey, Augustine Chungas well as facilitators: Mika Tan, Bidhya Sharma, Mark Raquino, Chris Rostron, Gab Mejia, Hyeseon Do, Yoon Lee, Seami Jung, Jisoo Kim, Heasoo Kim, Sue Lee, Jiyae Yim.
- The Co-organizer Youth Engaged in Wetlands: Elise Allely, Gab Mejia, Nicole Fabian. And Organizing Team from EAAFP: Hyeseon Do, Vivian Fu, Jisoo Kim, Saemi Jung, Tino Maduku. Your commitment, energy and passion made this collaboration and the event a great success!
- And all the youth participants!