As we come to the end of the United Nations 2011-2020 Decade on Biodiversity, we have to acknowledge that the rate of environmental damage is still increasing all over the world.

With the end of the Decade comes the resolution of the strategic plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which comprised of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets such as addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.

The world is now expected to adopt a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework during CBD COP 15 in Kunming, China in October 2021.

So far, the commitments and actions towards environmental conservation have been promising. However, there needs to be a significant step up in commitment and further synergy between policymaking and implementation. Despite the existing conventions, agreements, frameworks and legislations, much of the failure to mitigate biodiversity loss to date is due to the failure to implement decisions. Therefore, it’s time to double efforts to tackle the causes of global biodiversity loss or else we will see the Earth’s sixth mass extinction in the coming years. 

The post-2020 framework will allow countries to make innovative strategies and approaches for conservation and focus on setting an agenda for the CBD 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature.” Learning from the current strategic plans and goals will help establish long-term conservation commitments in order to halt the loss of biodiversity and climate change. So we must reassemble, reform and align with national level policy frameworks, identify the major shifts in environmental sciences and come up with a new agenda to abate the biodiversity crisis. 

In the face of the 4th industrial revolution, it is of utmost importance to adopt widespread systems of social and environmental protections to ensure sustainability. In fact, the 4th IR and global developments have already begun to affect society at all levels and it is young people who are facing and will face its direct consequences in the future. Young people therefore have a crucial role to advocate, participate and provide recommendations on adapting to shifts in technology and industry whilst ensuring sustainability. 

Young people have different needs, priorities and aspirations that need to be heard. But, young people’s interests are often disregarded in public policy. Often, their concerns are less heard and respected as they are looked down upon or are dismissed by older generations. The refusal of older generations to join hands with youth and young adults has broken down bridges and prevented effective dialogue. Young people cannot engage meaningfully in decision-making processes if they are excluded from consultation, policy formulation and policy implementation. But this is a time for bold, innovative approaches, concrete solutions, and even radical thinking so that there will be a wider discussion and sharing of ideas between the generations.

By placing young people front and center, we can share ownership in policies and a sense of responsibility and accountability to implement decisions on the ground.

Engaging young people in the post-2020 biodiversity plan will additionally ensure more holistic responses which would create an optimum impact for young people and biodiversity. Giving agency and power to young people would build a general culture of respect for young people, especially those that are marginalized. Mainstreaming young people in the post-2020 biodiversity targets will also help establish transparency mechanisms to hold governments accountable for these challenges and impacts. 

We must meaningfully engage and include young people’s visions for a robust framework to ensure biological diversity conservation. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also recognized the need for increased commitments from parties and stakeholders and an  increased  sense of responsibility, accountability and commitment from parties and stakeholders for implementation without hindering national sovereignty. This addition of a youth lens to the post-2020 action plan will be crucial to assess policy impacts and to evaluate the most and least productive approaches. 

Inevitably, the inclusion of youth will help strengthen and prioritize commitments for ecosystem restoration and achieve the vision for 2050.

Edwin Mumbere is the coordinator for the Centre for Citizens Conserving (CECIC), a non-governmental organization based in Western Uganda.