By QU Dongyu*
On June 5 every year, we celebrate World Environment Day. This year the theme is “Only One Earth” calling for “sustainable living in harmony with nature”. The theme and invitation to “live in harmony” reminds us that Earth belongs to all its inhabitants, young or old, in villages or in cities. The call for “harmony” can only be achieved by recognizing each person’s role and respecting the rights of everyone, to achieve inclusivity and meaningful participation and engagement by all.
Youth, including young professionals, who make up a large proportion of the global population, are and will continue to be disproportionately affected by the crises facing our planet, such as the impacts of climate change, ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, hunger and malnutrition, water scarcity, access to energy, and health for all. Without our immediate action, they will inherit an uncertain future.
Youth have always been a strong voice in calling for action, and they must continue to advocate for their future. Young people, with their commitment and passion, work on the frontlines, with the grassroots, making every effort to bring on board innovative ideas for a sustainable planet. They advocate for better policies, raise awareness on important environmental issues, and mobilize the public to take action to overcome some of our most pressing environmental challenges. Youth actively contribute to conservation and restoration efforts, often behind the scenes. The world needs to listen to the youth. To what they believe is needed to build and support a sustainable future. To work with them, and empower them as stakeholders, stewards and future leaders of the Earth.
The recent XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul, hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, is an example of how the youth made their voice heard. While the global forest community discussed how to build a green, healthy and resilient future with forests, over 600 youth participated in consultations bringing their energy, motivation and vision to carry forward a constructive outcome reflected in a Youth Declaration: “Work with Us – Youth Call for Action”. The Call asks for collaboration and support from all stakeholders to enhance the standard of, and access to, education and capacity development opportunities, decent work and employment, gender mainstreaming, access to finance, and participation in policy and strategy decisions at all levels. These are key enabling factors for elevating and strengthening the contribution, engagement and participation of youth and young professionals in the forest sector to help achieve internationally agreed global objectives and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The youth are catalysts for change who have the potential to transform our agrifood systems to make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more transparent. They are the global agents of change for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind. We must ensure that youth are in the driver’s seat of their future.
*Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations