CEC inspires a new generation of conservation professionals

The 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney Australia is an important event for young professionals interested in conservation and protected areas around the world. What makes the congress unique is its events that are geared towards empowering participants to engage in, and contribute to, protected areas work both through and beyond the congress. The success of this stream of events will be attributed to the partnerships between IUCN/CEC, WCPA/YP, IUCN/IPS, and Parks Canada.

Research on lifestyle behavior has shown that there is great potential to inspire youth to take action for change in their societies. Within the conservation movement, there is heightened need to increase awareness in the younger generation by including them in the conservation and management of natural resources. Further, youth are seen as potential stewards in ensuring the conservation standards and best practices continue to be upheld, improved upon, and adopted in different settings. In fact, among children and youth the potential is huge because this generation brings with it new energy, ideas and perspectives. If channeled properly, these ideas can influence present and future generations to change their attitudes and actions in terms of nature conservation. However, this generation needs inspiration because, until now, they have remained marginal and underrepresented in international conservation efforts.

The Sydney 2014 World Parks Congress will therefore go down as one of the most important events in fostering a new generation of conservation professionals through a special, dedicated stream of events that aims to inspire and connect new generations to nature. The stream—Inspiring a New Generation (ING)—has involved collaboration in design and implementation by the young professionals in IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA/YP); IUCN Task Force on Intergenerational Partnerships for Sustainability (IUCN IPS); IUCN Commission on Education and Communications (CEC); and Parks Canada.

The overall ING stream is divided into the following three sub-streams: Rediscovering Nature (led by Parks Canada); connecting children to nature (led by CEC); and Empowering Inspired Young Professionals (led by a network of young professionals). This last sub-stream (Empowering Inspired Young Professionals) is unique in its aim to inspire—and be inspired by—dynamic young people by providing them exciting opportunities for dialogue at the congress.

In advance of the congress, there will be a capacity building workshop for young professionals from different career backgrounds that will include various activities, including: skills related training; strategic leadership through co-mentorship; knowledge sharing via peer-to-peer learning; and networking. By using a variety of tools, engagement techniques, technologies, and creative approaches, it will provide participants with opportunities to interact with the local traditional owners, as well as conservation experts. The Technology Zone and Inspiration Room—a large creative gathering space—will be established to inspire through technology, art, information, and innovation.

Secondly, the sub-stream aims to ensure effective and active participation of young people and to integrate their powerful voices in the activities of the congress. To this end, the young people’s Global Protected Areas challenge and their media coalition have been designed to ensure that young professionals with different capacities have their voices heard in diverse settings. Ultimately, this will enable them to meaningfully contribute to the congress legacy.

Finally, the sub-stream will facilitate and foster networking and alliances among young people, as well as assist in the development of partnerships between youth and older generations in current and future actions for Parks, People and the Planet. Intergenerational dialogues, iAct webinars and storytelling sessions have all been organized to ensure a smooth dialogue between generations, the building of lasting partnerships before and after the congress, and continued learning and sharing. Spearheaded by the IPS taskforce, discussions will be geared towards changing people’s attitudes; providing new perspectives on protected areas and conservation; and assessing what needs to be done to increase sustainability in this area. Partners in capacity building, technology, communications, research and policy have been invited and are increasingly being drawn to this stream.

The CEC role in this stream is one of a communicator and partnership enabler. What brings together the various components of this stream—and connects it with the other seven congress streams—is the ability to communicate and collaborate with diverse stakeholders. Each of the stream activities is currently inviting partners in program content development, resource mobilization, communication and the actual running of the events at the congress.

About the Author

Grace Muthoni Mwaura is a IUCN CEC Steering Committee member, a co-convener of the TaskForce on Intergenerational Partnerships for Sustainability, Advisor to the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change and a doctoral student at the University of Oxford on Youth, Livelihoods and Politics in Africa.

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