Young people working with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) are playing leading roles at the World Youth Development Forum taking place on 21-23 July 2022, in Beijing, China.
Land Heroes David Chapoloko of Zambia and Moses Mulindwa of Uganda are panel discussants at the high-level platform, where over 2,000 young people are participating in a dialogue with policymakers, youth organizations, movements and stakeholders from around the world.
JulietGrace Luwedde of Uganda and India’s Esha Mitra, the Global Focal Points for the UNCCD’s Youth Caucus for Land and Desertification, are also involved as rapporteurs.
Andrea Meza, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCCD, delivered opening remarks during the session on Climate Action and Green Development on Friday, 22 July, and drew attention to the pivotal role of land and the opportunities it offers to youth.
She said what the future looks like will depend on what we all do to advance the 2030 sustainable development agenda.
The Global Land Outlook released in April by UNCCD warns that 15 million hectares of land, an area the size of South America, would be degraded by 2050, if we continued with business as usual, she said.
“There is little time left now to address climate change,” Meza said and highlighted the opportunities available through the land to change course, “if we do it now.”
Restoring a billion hectares of land – an area about the size of China – could, at once, harness multiple benefits for people and nature, generate land-based jobs for youth, and provide up to 30% of the mitigation solution needed to keep global temperatures at below 1.5 degree Celsius towards 2050, she added.
The goal of the World Youth Development Forum is to prioritize youth development in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and to advocate implementation of the Agenda by youth, with a declaration and an action plan as expected outcomes.
The All-China Youth Federation is organizing the Forum ahead of the International Youth Day celebrations on 12 August.
David Chapoloko, the 27-year-old Land Hero from Zambia said, “modern agriculture has altered the face of the planet more than any other human activity. We urgently need to rethink global food systems, which are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and represent the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss…The digital economy offers solutions that can help us to source our food without doing too much damage to the soil. It can also help us to adopt new ways to manage the land and to restore what is degraded.”
He explained that young people are engaging in the digital economy, which is where we must engage them if we are to interest them in land issues.
“We need to consider how young people can apply digital tools, devices and applications to manage the land well or we will lose them,” he said. He gave examples of the digital tools he is using in agriculture in Zambia.
Chapoloko is a youth influencer, who works on land and climate action, waste management and Green development issues, and has an interest in the sustainable development goals on Life on Land, Climate Action, Sustainable cities, Zero hunger and Poverty reduction.
Esha Mitra said, “young people from Africa and Europe are active on land issues This is a good opportunity to have a conversation with youth from Asia on climate action and greening the land, and what young people, particularly the land heroes, have being doing.”
Mitra spoke during the session on education and said “today, environmental education is part of a quality education. Green food and eco-schools, for example, should be part of environmental education to have a quality education.”
Land Hero Moses Mulindwa was a discussant at the session on Climate Action and Green Development.
UNCCD is working with young people to address the unique sustainability challenges they face now and in the future. The Global Youth Initiative for Combatting Desertification began at the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties, which took place in 2017 in Ordos, China.
Land Heroes are young people who influence others to promote sustainable land conservation initiatives from around the world. They are celebrated for their dedication, innovation and the impact of their projects.
At COP15, 300 young delegates participated at the UNCCD Youth Forum during the high-level segment. They started an interactive intergenerational dialogue on the challenges and prospects for youth to help (re) activate the land restoration agenda.
The Parties to the Convention mandated the secretariat of the Convention to develop a strategy on youth engagement for consideration by the Parties at their next Conference of the Parties in 2024.
The World Youth Forum is focusing on four areas during the three-day event: employment and entrepreneurship; climate action and green development; digital economy; and inclusive and equitable quality education.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions the Forum is in hybrid format, with an on-site meeting at Tsinghua University and an online Zoom meeting.