Youth Participation and the CBD Process

The ‘Earth Summit’, hosted in Rio de Janiero in 1992, witnessed the birth of youth participation in UN fora following the powerful and memorable speech given by 12-year-old Severn Suzuki. The summit also marked the beginning of the world’s journey towards sustainable development and the adoption of the three main Rio Conventions namely: the Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Convention on Biological Diversity came into force in 1993 with three main goals: the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Unlike the UNFCCC – who’s youth participation is very well known and has been around for almost a decade with YOUNGO acting as the official youth constituency – the CBD witnessed years where a few young individuals participated in the talks as part of the civil society movement but with no official youth constituency to work under. Many different reasons stand behind this, notably being that most youth organisations and young people are involved in on-the-ground conservation projects and are more active nationally and locally, but very few are engaged on the international level. This is accompanied by a lack of funding for youth participation in biodiversity governance, a lack of knowledge regarding the importance of the CBD process, and limited means of effective participation all contribute towards this participation.

Comparison of youth participation within the UNFCCC and CBD negotiations

Comparison of youth participation within the UNFCCC and CBD negotiations

In 2010, a group of dedicated bright young leaders came together to pave the path towards ensuring youth participation in the CBD process was valued. They created an independent youth platform that represented global youth voices at the negotiation table. In 2012, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) was established after two years of hard work, dedication and in close collaboration with the CBD Secretariat’s office. GYBN made its first appearance at COP11, which was hosted in Hyderabad, India; where they faced the big challenge of proving themselves amongst delegates. Following GYBN’s successful participation at COP11 and the Montreal talks – they quickly established an esteemed reputation and succeeded in earning the respect of parties, thus they were given the right to put forward interventions at all stages of the negotiations.

Moreover, this year at COP12, which was hosted in Pyeong Chang, Republic of Korea, GYBN was given the opportunity to give a 10-minute presentation at the High-Level Segment (HLS) that was held under the theme of “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development” which saw the adoption of the Gangwon Declaration. In this declaration, ministers and heads of delegation recalled the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (1) in addition to the Rio+20 outcome document whilst noting that progress towards the Aichi targets is insufficient, and reaffirming their commitment to mobilize financial resources from all sources for the effective implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

The negotiations also saw the official launch of the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO4) report. The GBO4 serves as the publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is a periodic report that summarizes the latest data on the status and trends of biodiversity along with drawing conclusions relevant to the further implementation of the Convention. The report highlighted that the current work and efforts undertaken by world governments towards achieving the Aichi Targets was insufficient. In addition, it stated that the goal to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020 would not be achieved at this rate.

Addressing this at the HLS, GYBN stated that it was deeply convinced that young people can play an important and active role in aiding world governments and the convention to achieve the objectives of the Convention, its Protocols and particularly the Strategic Plan; as young people are eager to take responsibility for their own future and be part of the solution to prevent the loss of biological diversity.

Moreover, youth find it alarming that as a lot of studies, including GBO4, have shown that the awareness of biodiversity values in many groups is in general very low -especially amongst youth whilst another study, stated that, saving biodiversity was only a priority issue for 4% of those questioned.

GYBN members working on achieving different Aichi Targets around the world

GYBN members working on achieving different Aichi Targets around the world

GYBN showcased that in the short two years since its establishment, it succeeded in bringing together a youth delegation to COP12 that had a representative from every inhabited continent. Moreover, its network now has and connects 341,000 members from 86 countries and is still growing. GYBN illustrated a few examples of how its members are already working on the ground contributing towards achieving various Aichi targets in different corners of the world. Due to its nature of being a network, GYBN proudly announced its project “Youth Voices: Mainstreaming GBO4 – Catalyzing the implementation of Aichi Targets and the Pyeongchang Roadmap” which aims to contribute to the process of mainstreaming the Aichi targets through innovative communication of the GBO4 findings and main messages.

Lastly, the CBD COP12 negotiations further saw the adoption of 33 decisions on various issues (2) and the entry of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) into force with 54 ratifying countries – hence marking the First Meeting of Parties to the Protocol (COP/MOP1).

[1] As part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity which aims to halt the loss of biodiversity, the Aichi targets were put together by parties which serve as 20 ambitious yet achievable targets if achieved are believed to save and conserve biodiversity –

[2] For more information on the decisions – read the IISD summary report:

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