APAC Youth Pre-Congress: Helping youth advocate for Africa’s biodiversity

APAC Youth Pre-Congress: Helping youth advocate for Africa’s biodiversity

APAC Youth Pre-Congress: Helping youth advocate for Africa’s biodiversity

By Terry Mukera | July 15, 2022

About the Author

Terry Mukera is African Wildlife Foundation's Editorial Associate. She helps to develop and write articles for AWF’s publications like the Travel Africa magazine, and other print marketing products such as the annual report. Terry is passionate about storytelling and its crucial role i ... More

Before the commencement of the much-awaited Africa Protected Areas Congress from July 18-23, 2022, in Kigali, Rwanda, a youth-led workshop will prepare young Africans for the first-of-its-kind, Africa-focused biodiversity congress. During this three-day workshop starting on July 15, 2022, the participants will showcase their work, explore important biodiversity protection issues, and prepare to engage with the Congress streams and cross-cutting themes fully.

AWF’s Senior Manager, Youth Leadership Program, Simangele Msweli, has been involved in planning the Youth Pre-Congress, for which AWF has sponsored several youth participants. In this interview, she explains why including youth perspectives is critical and how the APAC Youth Pre-Congress prepares young Africans for the future of conservation in Africa.

What is the purpose of the APAC Youth Pre-Congress?

The purpose of the workshop is to prepare youth participants for the main Congress, which will have more than 100 sessions, a lot of which are very technical. Since the participants have varying levels of understanding and experiences of the streams and themes, the Youth Pre-Congress — led by Stand Up Shout Out, a vibrant Kenya-based youth organization — ensures that they understand the context of APAC and can make meaningful contributions in the main conference.

What is the importance of engaging youth in conservation and the APAC Youth Pre-Congress?

Today’s youth are directly impacted by the commitments our leaders make at forums like the Africa Protected Areas Congress and they will eventually take up the baton to implement these decisions in the future. AWF recognizes that conservation is an intergenerational endeavor so we need to engage young people and prepare them to take up the responsibility while ensuring that their perspectives are included in environmental discussions. We do this by bringing them to the table and helping them build the technical skills required to continue and strengthen conservation.

The Africa Protected Areas Congress is a critical opportunity for intergenerational knowledge transfer — not only can young people influence the conservation agenda, they can also gain insight from other constituencies represented at the Congress.

The success of APAC can only be achieved if we have a mass of energetic, passionate people who will go back to their countries and share the lessons learnt and the successful outcomes of the Congress.

What makes the Africa Protected Areas Congress different? Not just for youth but for conservation in general.

I have been to many biodiversity conferences, but I have never been to one that was solely about Africa. By virtue of being a conference for African nations, APAC is closer to the context of African conservation challenges; issues important to us as Africans get easily diluted if we are on an international platform. APAC is authentically African, meaning we are all coming together with our shared priorities.

When it comes to funding conservation, I love that APAC, without pointing fingers, makes it possible to ask ourselves how we can mobilize finances for Africa’s biodiversity. This conference is about Africa coming up with a solution, evidenced by the unveiling of A Pan-African Conservation Trust, an innovative sustainable funding mechanism for Africa’s protected areas.

Also, the level of civil society engagement I have seen in the buildup to the Africa Protected Areas Congress has been incredible. A lot of the high-level sessions have a significant community representation. It is truly inspiring.

What is your participation in APAC, and what are your hopes for youth in conservation?

AWF’s Youth Leadership Program is passionate about improving youth participation in such conferences. But unfortunately, it is uncommon to find African youth engaging actively in conservation conferences due to a lack of finances or opportunities. My hope for this Congress is that we have the active engagement of African youth from all the sub-regions, which is what we have tried to do with the youth we are supporting to attend the Youth Pre-Congress and main conference.

We also wanted to ensure diversity of organizations so we are bringing in new faces from organizations that rarely get support.

How does the Africa Protected Areas Congress help young Africans strengthen conservation?

Ideally, African youth at the Congress will actively participate not just in the opening session but in driving their own events.

The Africa Protected Areas Congress yields to other global agendas. With Africa hosting the U.N. Climate Change Conference later this year and the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework being adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity, I look forward to how the young Africans participating in APAC make that link. My hope for the future is that we create this movement of youth who can consistently contribute to the objective of the Congress and actually make a linkage between global agendas for conservation.

Practically, I am hoping that the youths that participate in APAC go back to their countries and prompt real action —whether it is by communicating the outcomes of the conference or, for those in policy and advocacy, adopting these outcomes in their messages for other conferences, or by going back to do more projects on the ground.

> Learn more about the conservation workshops, plenary sessions, and clinics AWF is organizing at APAC