Are we listening to the young voices?
On the 3d of March we celebrated World Wildlife Day. The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day, namely ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, will hopefully resonate with Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve stakeholders, supporters, residents and those more actively and intimately involved with the concept daily.
According to one of the websites that highlights the occasion, it is a day that is observed by all UN Member States – “to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora”. The date that was decided upon, to be commemorated annually, is 3 March.
On the same date as the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its 68th session, which was 20 December 2013, it decided to proclaim 3 March as World Wildlife Day in response to a proposal by Thailand.
In its resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being.
This paragraph above is like a beacon of light and reassurance, as well as a reminder to all who subscribe to the concept of biosphere reserves! It urges all of us to re-position and reassess our values, our attitudes, our approaches, our involvement and amongst many other things, also our accountability.
Not only did the General Assembly take note of the outcome of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES that had been held in Bangkok from 3 to 14 March 2013, 3 March was designated as World Wildlife Day, but it also recognized the important role of CITES in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the survival of species.
The General Assembly requested the CITES Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant organizations of the UN system, to facilitate the implementation of World Wildlife Day.
The themes of previous years’ WWD’s were the following:
- 2016: ‘The Future of Wildlife is in our Hands’, with a sub-theme ‘The Future of Elephants is in our Hands’.
- 2015: ‘It’s Time to get Serious About Wildlife Crime’
As mentioned above, World Wildlife Day will this year be celebrated under the theme “Listen to the Young Voices.” Almost one quarter of the world’s population is aged between 10 and 24 and it has become increasingly urgent to encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to step up and join the quest of protecting our endangered wildlife.
According to the official website of WWD, “The engagement and empowerment of youth is high on the agenda of the United Nations and this objective is being achieved through the youth programmes of various UN system organizations as well as the dedicated UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.”
The first CITES resolution ever on ‘Youth Engagement’, with the aim of gaining greater engagement and empowerment of the youth regarding conservation matters, was adopted in September last year when Parties to CITES convened in Johannesburg at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties.
The official website of WWD further explains that this year’s event “encourages youth around the world to rally together to address ongoing major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking.”
It goes on to say: “Youth are the agents of change. In fact, we are already seeing the positive impacts on conservation issues made by some young conservation leaders around the world. If they can help make a change, you can too!”
“We all have a role to play. Our collective conservation actions can be the difference between a species surviving or disappearing.
“It’s time for us all to listen to the young voices.”
CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon, said “Given the current rate of poaching and smuggling, will future generations one day speak of elephants, rhinoceros and many other endangered species as we speak of mammoths: magnificent creatures belonging to the past? We must not and will not allow this to happen”.
Responsibility of each generation
He added: “It is the responsibility of each generation to safeguard wildlife for the following generation. We have not yet succeeded in securing the future of the world’s wildlife. Meeting this challenge will now be shared with the next generation. To succeed we must fully harness the innovation and energy of youth, and combine it with the wisdom that comes with experience, if we are to make the change we need to happen. We are confident that some of the youth will dedicate their lives to the conservation of wildlife which is such a great cause, yet our hope is that all the youth will be personal ambassadors for wildlife conservation – which is key to our future survival: people, animals and plants. This is the message behind the theme ‘Listen to the young voices’.”