After a wonderful 2-years, the Youth Think Tank Competition for the EAA Flyway came to a close on Saturday 22nd October 2022. To extend the momentum of 2020 Flyway Youth Forum which became the first spark for dialogue amongst youth in the EAA Flyway on conservation of wetlands and migratory waterbirds, the Youth Think Tank Competition for the EAA Flyway was launched on August 2021 to encourage and enable youth to actively engaging in conservation. Taking in the feedback from the forum participants, who commented that they wanted further opportunities to actively take part in wetland and migratory bird conservation, the EAAFP Secretariat, with the help of various advisors from the partnership, organized the Competition to provide the opportunity to fulfil the needs. The competition was targeted at Youth between the ages 18-29.
During Phase I, a total of 37 applications from 14 countries were submitted. Each project was carefully reviewed by the esteemed judge panel. Eventually, 5 selected teams from China, the Philippines, and Indonesia would receive funding from the Secretariat to implement their projects. The result was announced in December 2021:
To help guide the youths with their projects, each team was assigned a mentor, who would coach them along the project implementation. The mentors were helped them to tackle various challenges they faced, one of which proved to be the COVID pandemic. All teams are able to overcome the challenges and successfully implemented their projects from January to October 2022.
The second part of the programme is capacity building. The EAAFP Secretariat, with support from recruited 4 youth volunteers and EAAFP interns which formed the Youth Organizing Team, organized workshop series of 4 sessions, inviting distinguished speakers and trainers to cover key topics: 1) Understanding global agenda for environment and how youth are engaged 2) Engaging Local Communities in Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and Wetlands 3) Project Management 4) Conservation Communication and Story Telling. Most workshops comprised of a webinar and an in-depth training workshop. The 4-part workshop series reached a total of 75 different participants from 16 countries within and beyond the Flyway. The Pre- and Post-workshop surveys filled out by the participants of each workshop indicated an increase in knowledge and skills for each topic and the majority of participants also expressed that they found the workshops to be useful in their line of work.
On 22nd October, project teams, mentors, judges, and many others gathered for the Closing Ceremony. The ceremony kicked off with opening speeches from Mr. Doug Watkins, Chief Executive of the EAAFP Secretariat and Mr. Casey Burns, EAAFP CEPA Working Group Chair, followed by a short summary presentation of the Competition by Ms. Vivian Fu, EAAFP Communication Officer, who headed the entire competition. Each team then gave 10–15-minute presentations on their projects. After that, the Grand Final Winner selected by the judges was announced by Mr. Doug Watkins. And the Grand Final Winner was Team “Dining Wetlands for Humans and Birds” from China.
The winning team will be awarded an opportunity to join an international events (e.g. Ramsar COP14) and will also be offered a position as a youth representative for the CEPA Working Group.
Those who attended the closing ceremony left amazed and moved by the creativity and capabilities of the 5 youth teams. Youth Think Tank Competition once again proves the importance and strength of youth in the conservation field. Following the success of the programme, the Secretariat will continue to find further opportunities for youth to engage in EAAFP work and activities.
We would like to express our gratitude to the advisors: Mark Edison Raquino (Global Youth Biodiversity Network – South East Asia); Suh Seung Oh, Ramsar Regional Center -East Asia; Tomoko Ichikawa, Ministry Of Environment Japan; Yamme Leung, World Wide Fund – Hong Kong; Casey Burns, EAAFP CEPA Working Group; Gab Mejia, Youth Engaged in Wetland, Josefa Cariño Tauli, Global Youth Biodiversity Network. The mentors: Ding Li Yong, BirdLife International (Asia Division); Terry Townshend, Paulson Institute; Sayam U. Chowdhury, EAAFP Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force, Micha Jackson, The University of Queensland. Our special thanks goes to the honorable judges: Mika Tan from ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity; Beom-Sik Yoo, The Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention; Spike Millington, International Crane Foundation; Chris Rostron, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT); Anastasia Cronin, National Geographic; and Casey Burns, EAAFP CEPA Working Group.
We would also like to thank the amazing organizing team: Ho Bun Yu (Orca), Jord Gadingan, Thura Htike, Frances Alvares (designer) and from the Secretariat Yoomi Sim, Sinwoo Won, Yoonjae Bae, Yuji Lim, Yeonju Park, Hyoin Kim, Sewon Lim, Yunjoo Cho and Yoon Lee.
For more on the Youth Think Tank Competition
For playback of each workshop: