African youth urge world leaders to commit to protecting biodiversity now

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Young people from across Africa called on world leaders on World Environment Day to act now to protect biodiversity.

The call was made today during the traditional Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda, the host of the 2010 global World Environment Day celebrations. The event was attended by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Hollywood star Don Cheadle, wildlife photographer Luo Hong, alongside the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner and the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ahmed Djoghlaf.

In a statement addressed to global leaders for the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), the young delegates, aged 14 to 24, expressed their frustration that no government has met the 2010 biodiversity targets, while pressures driving biodiversity loss are either constant or increasing in intensity as indicated by the Global Biodiversity Outlook report.

The statement, which culminated a four –day Tunza African Youth Environment Network (AYEN) Conference - also emphasized the need for strong vision and leadership.

'We, the youth of Africa, have witnessed the depletion of our fish stocks, clearing of our forests, conversion of more than half of the world's wetlands and emission of enough green-house gases to keep our planet warming for centuries to come. You are the decision makers and leaders of our societies, holding the power to make a positive difference and to combat biodiversity loss. We urge you to promote sustainable development and to reduce direct and indirect pressure on the environment and to increase efficiency in natural resource utilization to meet the development demands of society,' read the statement.

Africa's young environmental leaders also exhorted leaders to tackle biodiversity loss as a priority as many of the world's poorest and most vulnerable groups of society depend on the earth's natural resources.

Key recommendations to World leaders include:

  • More deliberate actions to reconcile development goals with the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of the multiple services provided by the ecosystems it underpins.
  • To recognize the importance of ecosystem services for human livelihoods and support action to conserve, restore and protect these for present and future generations.
  • Equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of and access to biodiversity and its underlying ecosystem services.
  • Increased engagement between stakeholders, including youth, local communities and civil society.
  • Implementation of youth development programmes linked with the environment and support to formal and informal education around biodiversity loss.

Young delegates also called on world citizens to gather knowledge of the environment we're living in and to work towards its conservation.

'We need to realize the huge value of natural ecosystems and how far biodiversity impacts our daily lives. Only when we fully value nature will we properly protect it,' they said.

The Tunza regional Youth Conference was organized by UNEP with the support of Bayer AG.

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