The IUCN CEC Regional Vice-Chair for Europe, Katalin Czippán, represented the Commission at the annual meeting of YEE in Oucmanice, Czech Republic.
CEC was invited by Jan Čeřovsky (Honorary Member of IUCN since 1996 and also a longstanding and Honorary Member of IUCN CEC) to give a short presentation about youth engagement in IUCN, especially CEC’s work, and discuss potential cooperation between the two organisations.
Youth and Environment Europe was established as the European regional branch of the International Youth Federation for Environmental Studies and Conservation (IYF) in 1983 in Stockholm. All of its activities are organised and carried out by young people under the age of 30. Around 40 delegates of YEE member organisations participated in the annual meeting which took place in the Paleta Ecocentre 27-29 July.
The meeting included the presentation of a publication on the IYF (see more) which is the mother organisation of YEE. So called "Old Socks" joined in, shared experiences with the younger generation and told stories about the organisation.
IUCN CEC was invited because IUCN was the main supporter of IYF between 1970 and 1984, and Mr Čeřovsky wanted to encourage the two organisations to renew their connection.
After sharing some success stories from her early life at the Göncöl Foundation in Hungary, Katalin Czippán introduced the structure of the IUCN and the strategic objectives of CEC. She also described the achievements of the Intergenerational Partnership initiative, which was launched by CEC and reaches across the whole of IUCN.
Katalin highlighted the following youth-engagement actions:
A buddy programme was organized in 2008 in which a senior and a junior professional shared their knowledge and experiences over five months, fostering intergenerational dialogue. Katalin was a participant in the project. “The Buddy Experiment was very useful for both partners. Even the old ones could refresh their knowledge and upgrade their picture of reality,” she said.
Since that time, other Commissions have started organizing young professionals workshops and groups, and a special online Wikispace platform for intergenerational partnership has been established. The whole process gained further momentum in 2009, when an action plan was developed at the joint meeting of the CEC and WCPA Steering Committees, upscaling the intergenerational partnership approach.
Today, youth engagement is established and expanding in CEC and throughout IUCN:
- The IUCN Council has a young professional member Grace Mwaura, who is tweeting regularly about the activities she is part of;
- The CEC Young Professionals Leadership Team was established and now runs a Facebook group;
- The CEC newsletter regularly reports on youth, e.g. in the recent July there are seven articles highlighted, and other articles from young people are integrated throughout;
- The IUCN CEC Chair’s Youth Award was received by Vedharajan Balaji of India, funding him to participate in the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Jeju (YEE had a very promising candidate);
- The Intergenerational Wikispace is a very active platform;
- Young professionals from all Commissions are connected and have their own Commission networks and Facebook groups;
- A Task Force on Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability (IPS) was established to reach across IUCN and to promote youth engagement and collaboration across generations in service of the IUCN mission.
Thanks to the work of young leaders in CEC, and increasingly in other Commissions, the engagement of youth and its visibility have become an important issue for IUCN, as seen in these examples:
- A place for a young person was secured on all future Council Congress Preparatory Committees;
- A logo for IPS was selected and will be launched at the WCC;
- Youth and intergenerational activities will be highlighted during the Congress;
- Caroline Seagle, a member of CEESP's Young Professionals Network, is running for the position of IUCN North American and Caribbean Regional Councilor;
- Six youth-related motions were submitted to the Congress and then consolidated by the Task Force into these two: Motion 132: The Child's Right to Nature and a Healthy Environment (IUCN Netherlands Committee) and Motion 008: Increasing Youth Engagement and Intergenerational Partnership Across and Through the Union (Development Alternatives, Jeju Bureau of Environment, UN-mandated University for Peace);
- The Task Force is running an action planning workshop (#746) titled 'Youth Engagement and Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability: Toward a Cross-Commission Action Plan' that will integrate input on Commission-specific and Union-wide action ideas.
Katalin highlighted that all of the activities are organized by committed young volunteers who try to engage in all IUCN work areas to help bring about conservation outcomes. In a volunteer network, they have realised the rule that they can get out as much as they put in. They are using the advantages of social media. There is no allocated budget for youth actions. These are not necessarily separate activities, but rather an approach of integrating youth engagement into ongoing activities and taking on additional projects based on available time and enthusiasm from young professionals.
Finally, Katalin invited YEE to become a member of IUCN and invited interested persons to join the Commission most relevant to their interests and professional capacity. She offered the ongoing support of elder fellows of IUCN CEC to youth initiatives.