Global Leadership

Change of Guard: Meet the Kenyan Policymaker Advocating for Young Voices in Science

As the Africa Youth Climate Assembly kicks off on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit, the time is now to showcase the critical role that youth can play in shaping the scientific processes across multilateral environmental agencies. Dr. Lucy Nganga, the Kenya Focal Point on IPBES, offers invaluable insights into how African youth are being propelled into the forefront of shaping sustainable solutions through their active involvement in platforms like the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) that just came to a close in Bonn, Germany, this week.

A Paradigm Wave of Empowerment

Dr. Lucy Nganga's role within the IPBES processes has afforded her a front-row seat to witness the remarkable empowerment of African scientists and youth over the years. She emphasizes the importance of IPBES's representation requirements, which strive to ensure equitable participation from regions around the globe. This deliberate approach prevents the domination of discussions by any single region, fostering a rich diversity of perspectives. The inclusion of multiple values and viewpoints, including those of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, has helped amplify the voices of African scientists, fostering an environment where their insights are increasingly valued and respected.

An impactful stride has been the active engagement of African scientists in the review processes of IPBES assessments. This inclusive mechanism opens the door for experts from different corners of the world to engage and contribute, ensuring a well-rounded and comprehensive approach to addressing conservation and climate-related challenges. Furthermore, the IPBES Fellowship Program has emerged as a powerful vehicle for nurturing young African scientists. By providing opportunities for these young minds to transition into assessors within IPBES processes, the program is sowing the seeds of sustainability and capacity enhancement, ensuring that Africa's scientific community is well-equipped to tackle pressing issues.

Fusing Science and Climate Action: IPBES at Africa Climate Week

Against the backdrop of Africa Climate Week, Dr. Lucy Nganga envisions the seamless integration of IPBES findings into the dialogue surrounding the continent's climate challenges. The crux of this integration lies in emphasizing the intricate interplay of biodiversity, land use, and climate issues. IPBES recognizes that these challenges are deeply intertwined, each exacerbating the impact of the other. For instance, the loss of biodiversity contributes to land degradation, while safeguarding and restoring biodiversity can bolster ecosystem resilience. As Africa grapples with climate vulnerabilities and ecosystem dependence, embracing this integrated approach is paramount for effective solutions.

Youth at the Helm: Mentorship and Collaboration

Mentorship and training programs like the AWF and UNEP-led Charles R. Wall Policy Fellows program hold the key to inspiring African youth to engage actively in conservation and climate action. By offering guidance and exposure, these initiatives equip young individuals with the tools to make meaningful contributions on both local and global scales. Dr. Lucy Nganga encourages African youth to seek specialized courses in conservation and climate action, amplifying their capacity to drive change. Participating in negotiations at regional and global levels exposes them to invaluable experiences and insights, honing their skills to engage effectively with policy-makers and stakeholders.

Elevating Youth Voices Through Collaboration

The collaboration between non-state actors and IPBES opens an avenue for African youth to steer change and introduce innovative perspectives to the forefront of climate discussions. “IPBES actively champions the involvement of non-state actors in its processes and assessments, extending inclusivity to solutions identified in its reports. This inclusive space provides a platform for the voices of youth to be heard and considered,” Dr. Lucy emphasizes while adding that there is great impact when African youth engage meaningfully with stakeholder initiatives within data-driven processes and other climate-related endeavors. This engagement not only amplifies the influence of youth but also infuses novel ideas and inventive solutions into the global discourse on biodiversity and climate change.

As the Africa Climate Summit inches closer, the role of IPBES processes in shaping the continent's response to climate challenges becomes increasingly evident. The platform's dedication to empowerment, inclusivity, and collaboration is propelling African scientists and youth to the forefront of influence and innovation. With the nexus between conservation, biodiversity, and climate action firmly established, Africa stands poised to take center stage in steering a more sustainable and resilient future, with the youthful voices of change leading the way.