The current global youth (15-24 years) population stands at 1.2 billion translating to 16% of the global population and is expected to rise further by 7% by 2030¹. The youth have immense potential and can provide innovative solutions to promote development. The need for equipping the youth with knowledge and opportunities that will allow them to thrive and showcase their abilities has been highlighted numerous times. An example of a youth led initiative and first of its kind is the YFPD, a conference-like online event organized by youth for youth to enable the youth community to exchange knowledge and gain more insights about international forest policies. The three-day online event employed diverse formats such as workshops, plenary and parallel sessions and role play game. A living library session focusing on working life provided an opportunity for the participants to be inspired to take action by stories from fellow youth and other professionals in the sector. Through the networking session, the participants had the chance to meet and exchange ideas and experiences with the professionals and participants.
The YFPD was organised by FOREST EUROPE’s workstreams on Forest Education and Green Jobs, the Rapid Response Mechanism, and the International Forestry Students Association (IFSA). The International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) and Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) partnered in organizing the event. The YFPD taskforce had the following members: Silvia Abruscato, Vera Steinberg and Juliet Achieng from the Forest Europe Secretariat and Johanna Klapper, Polina Blinova, Nicolas Domke Venegas, Alina Lehikoinen, Simone Massaro, Erica Di Girolami and Elif Duman from IFSA.
The workshop topics were selected from a series of consultation meetings with IFSA members. The students reported that they had insufficient skills in public speaking, event organization such as conferences, and digitalization in the forest sector but they considered them as important for the success of their careers. During the conference day, well-known forest policy experts expounded on how forest policy works and provided real world examples from Africa, Europe and Latin America. Crucial topics in forestry such as Sustainable Forest Management, halting deforestation and restoration were discussed and the contribution of forest finance to their success was highlighted. The Youth Call to Action and Open Letter on Gender and Forest Education are youth led initiatives presented at the event which highlighted the youth’s contribution to international forest policies. In the climate negotiation the participants acted as representatives of governments, business and civil society and had to establish a concrete plan to limit global warming to below 2°C.
A clear take-home message from the event was:
“The forest sector needs to leave the silos and be open to establishing transparent dialogues about youth inclusion because the youth is the energy and passion in the room.”
Silvia Abruscato, Forest Europe Secretariat.
The recordings are available on the event’s webpage: https://ifsa.net/yfpd