▲ IUCN Director-General Inger Andersen (center) is joined by Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong (third from left) alongside local and global conservation leaders to celebrate the IUCN's 70th anniversary on Oct. 4 at the Jeju World Leaders' Conservation Forum.
Director-General Inger Andersen of the IUCN was inspired for the future of conservation by youth leaders at the World Leaders’ Conservation Forum (WLCF) 2018 held Oct. 3-5 at the ICC Jeju. Speaking on Oct. 4, Andersen said she was “really, really happy” by the level of youth engagement at the second WLCF on Jeju following the inaugural event in 2015.
“Global experts may have expertise, but at the end of the day that expertise needs to owned by the next generation, and needs to be implemented at the local level... We have had a lot of young people ... and you know, they will run the world the day after tomorrow, so we better get them on board,” said Andersen.
The youth presence was significant with one of five Technical Sessions on Oct. 3 being a lively Youth Forum attended by local students, Then, on Oct. 5, the third of three Leaders Dialogues was titled Empowering the Next Generations and dedicated to future conservation leaders.
Andersen explained that the aim of the WLCF was not only to corral leaders of today, but to empower leaders of tomorrow, and she hopes to see that leadership coming to fruition at the next WLCF which be held after the World Conservation Congress in 2020.
“I like very much that we see young people having a presence here and a voice. Maybe next time, they will also design elements of it, and not just be participants, but be part of the structural design,” she said, adding that youth could even be “the dominant presence” at the next forum.
Youth certainly dominated the stage at the final dialogue of the WLCF as 17-year-old Melati Wijsen, founder of Bye Bye Plastic Bags from Bali, Indonesia, gave an impassioned speech about the need to reduce the use of plastics. Hopefully her rousing speech convinced Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong to say “bye-bye” to plastic bags as he shared the stage with Paul Rose of National Geographic and others.
Although it contained no specific mention of plastic, Governor Won did release a declaration at the close of the forum commiting the island to “a sustainable future.” In partnership with the national government and the IUCN, the “Together for a Sustainable Future!” declaration states that, henceforth, the province “shall only allow development that falls within the environmental carrying capacity.”
The balance between development and conservation was a key theme of WLCF, and speaker Lee Soojae, Korea Environment Institute, said that the island had already exceeded sustainable limits. Local residents also joined the Technical Sessions to add their voice to the debates, with the consensus being that over-development had already damaged the island’s environment.
Andersen said that Jeju’s active engagement with the IUCN rests on this acute awareness of the need to balance improving livelihoods with protecting the environment.
“Jeju, I think, is unique as a self-governing province. It has a very unique ecosystem, unique environment, and it has a community of people, citizens and leaders that understand that uniqueness, but also maybe understand that it is under pressure from development, and understands that there needs to be a healthy balance between growth opportunities and jobs, and also with conservation.”
Other key themes at WLCF 2018 included “Beyond Borders” with Xavier Sticker, the French Ambassador for the Environment, and “Sustainability: Turning Words into Actions Through Cooperation” moderated by Director-General Andersen. There were also in-depth discussions around conservation funding and diplomacy, in addition to the prospect of increased cooperation with North Korea on protected areas.
Jeju’s prestigious role as host of such discussions rests on its status as the only site in the world to include all four major international protected area designations: Biosphere Reserve, World Natural Heritage, Global Geoparks and Ramsar Wetlands. The projects also carry over from the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2012, held on Jeju, and the Jeju Declaration which committed the province to a number of sustainable development targets.
Within the Jeju Declaration was a commitment to harmonize the management of Multi Internationally Designated Areas (MIDAs) in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment and the IUCN. Following a successful Technical Session on the topic on Oct. 3, Jeju outlined its plans to establish a UNESCO Category 2 Center for training and research to make it a hub of protected area management.
Andersen believes that such progression is possible thanks to events like WLCF which help keep “the conversation on conservation alive.” She added that Jeju was the first among WCC host cities to propose to host such regular IUCN meetings and this meant that the national and provincial governments were playing key roles in progressing the global conservation agenda.
“Jeju is the first to have done that, Korea is the first to have done that, and we really do appreciate that support,” she said.
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