Voice of youth made itself heard at COP10, targets India

by Setsuko Kamiya

NAGOYA — While the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity finally wound to an end Saturday morning, a group of international students said their work toward COP11, slated for 2012 in India, was only just beginning.

“We aim to send youth from at least 100 countries to COP11,” said Christian Schwartzer, 23, a German student and a member of Global Youth Biodiversity Organization, a network of international student groups working to protect biodiversity.

They will also prepare themselves to become official participants of the international biodiversity negotiations.

“The issues that politicians and negotiators are dealing with are about our future. These negotiations are about us, and if they are making decisions about us, then not without us,” said Schwartzer.

During COP10, a total of 100 students aged between 12 and 28 came individually to lobby against biodiversity loss. However, they ended up acting together to call for their official involvement in future negotiations as they represent the generations biodiversity loss will directly affect.

GYBO’s hard lobbying paid off Thursday when Convention on Biological Diversity President Ahmed Djoghlaf expressed his commitment to establishing a focal point for youth in CBD to better engage them in the process.

“Everyone we’ve talked to has been very supportive, but we weren’t sure this would happen, so it’s great progress,” said Bethany Winstone, 19, a Canadian student and member of Protect Our Water and Environmental Resources Canada.

Other students from various countries, including Norway, Belgium, Indonesia, Uganda, Mexico and the U.S., had worked together to make the voices of the young heard. Half of the total were Japanese.

While each brought their own agenda to Nagoya, they not only shared their views on preventing biodiversity loss but also worked together and wrote a declaration stating that the opinions of the youth should be part of the CBD process.

During the two weeks, the students pushed negotiators to decide to halt biodiversity loss by 2020 or to come to a comprehensive legally binding access and benefit-sharing protocol.

On Saturday morning as COP10 ended, Marie Tanao, 22, a student at Nanzan University and a GYBO member, said the goals of the Aichi Targets on conservation adopted at the conference were less ambitious than what her student group, Biodiversity on the Brink, had pushed for. Tanao said she was a bit disappointed but realized the complexity of the multilateral negotiations.

“I’m glad that they were adopted, but I feel they could have taken (the targets) to a higher level. We pushed so hard for that,” she said.