Youth Forum prepares tomorrow’s leaders to address climate change adaptation

A week-long training and knowledge sharing workshop for young people from 17 Asian countries opened today in Kathmandu, helping to build the next generation of leadership in sustainable mountain development and climate actions.

The ‘Asia-Pacific Youth Forum on Climate Actions and Mountain Issues’, organized by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), runs from 8 to 12 August. The participants include 33 youth from ICIMOD’s eight regional member countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan) plus 9 from across the wider Asia-Pacific region. Coming from a wide spectrum of social and academic backgrounds, all the participants are below the age of 29; more than 60% of them are female.

This event is being organized in the backdrop of the upcoming seventeenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2011, and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in June 2012 as follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit (also known as the Rio+20 conference).

During the workshop, the young people will learn how they might contribute as individual and collective agents of change within the realm of climate change adaptation and contribute to ongoing international negotiations, in particular the Rio+20 and the UNFCCC meetings. Participants will engage in sustainability leadership exercises, while learning about pertinent issues related to climate change and mountain issues from ICIMOD experts and leading advocacy, sustainability, and climate change adaptation practitioners from the Asia-Pacific region. The event also marks the celebration of the International Year of Youth 2010/2011 and International Youth Day, 12 August.

Mr Gokarna Bista, Minister of Energy, Government of Nepal, in his inaugural speech emphasized the need to engage the youth population in the development process by empowering them with knowledge, skills, and resources. He called upon the participants to broaden their thinking, improve their understanding of national and global concerns, and be prepared to face up to the challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation, and vulnerability that mountainous countries face in achieving sustainable development goals.

Dr Madhav Karki, Acting Director General of ICIMOD, in his welcome address said that the Rio+20 conference should be about a new paradigm of development – a rethinking of current approaches for achieving human wellbeing. For vulnerable mountain countries, it represents an opportunity to advocate strongly the need to recognize the `green growth’ potential of mountain ecosystems in the face of increasing threats due to climate change. He noted the urgency of conveying the political, financial, and institutional commitment that world leaders will have to make at Rio+20 so that least developed and developing mountainous countries and regions can successfully integrate the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and social – to achieve their development goals.

‘We offer a unique opportunity for students and speakers from across the Asia-Pacific region to engage? each other in addressing the challenges of applying and adapting the broad principles of sustainability, climate change adaptation, and mountain development to create location-specific solutions. The emphasis will be on issues specific to mountain development in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region and beyond, especially in the context of ICIMOD’s work and ongoing and planned regional and global processes on relevant topics,’ said Mr Daan Boom, Program Manager at ICIMOD.

Mr Tek Jung Mahat, event manager, said, ‘The forum participants will define the Asia-Pacific youth perspective on Rio+20 in the mountain context. The recommendations of the forum will find their place in Rio+20 documents and climate change discussions through ICIMOD preparatory activities in the months to come.’

The Asia-Pacific Youth Forum is technically supported by more than ten global and regional initiatives working on sustainability, climate change, and youth leadership issues.

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Noreen Gill

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