21 January 2015
Empowering Inspired Young Conservation Leaders; Answering a Call
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Current and emerging young leaders are a collaborative movement of young empowered people who have a spirit of unity and hope.

“It is well known that, among those who are preoccupied with the future of protected areas, there are a great many grey heads and far too few youthful ones. I am told that under-representation of the youth is a widespread phenomenon in many fields associated with protected area management. This is of course a matter for concern, because without the involvement of the youth, the future cannot be secured.” – Nelson Mandela, World Parks Congress 2003, Durban, South Africa.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, as was eloquently presented by Nelson Mandela at the 2003 World Parks Congress (WPC), a collective of young leaders were leading sessions and sharing and contributing knowledge during the World Parks Congress, held in November 2014 in Sydney, Australia. A crucial initiative of the Congress’ Stream 8: Inspiring a New Generation program, was to invest in current and emerging young leaders in leading dialogue and to include them as panel members and/or chairs for keynote sessions.

The coming together of young leaders from across the globe highlights a desire to move away from traditional patriarchal top-down approaches to conservation, which stymy innovation, creativity and inclusiveness. Rather, it shows interest in moving towards a new approach to conversation, one that aims to:

  • Include and apply indigenous and traditional learning to all work and activities;
  • Ensure each conservation action is transdisciplinary by including non-traditional areas such as, but not limited to, arts, technology, social and political science, law, finance, spiritual healing, physical, mental health and well-being;
  • Respect new ideas that embrace innovation, creativity and ambitious initiatives;
  • Work with traditional sectors such as finance and business to create new conservation-based economies that favor conservation outcomes over immediate capital gains;
  • Move towards partnerships that promote horizontal peer-supported integration;
  • Recognize that across generations we are a powerful force for creating change, where social cohesiveness and functionality removes isolation and disempowerment while creating resilience in the face of impacts such as climate change;
  • Apply a conservation ethic to all decisions to ensure minimization of impact and harm to the environment;
  • Empower current and emerging leaders through mentorship and strengthening of their skills, capacities and networks.

This new approach to creating change is reflected in ‘The Young Peoples Pact for People, Parks and Planet: An Action Plan,’ that forms part of The Promise of Sydney, the overarching legacy of the 2014 World Parks Congress. The Pact was created by a group of current and emerging young leaders who gathered in the Blue Mountains in the lead up to the 2014 WPC. Sponsored by Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding and in-kind support by the Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA) Consortium, the overarching focus of this pre-congress gathering was to act now in creating change for nature conservation through a collective and shared responsibility across generations.

Fundamentally important to creating this change is the need for investment in current and emerging leaders, specifically to empower them so that they can be effective, transformative, powerful leaders now and into the future. One step forward in this investment is for senior leaders across all organizations and sectors to adopt the Interleadership Framework and embed it in their organizational processes. The co-benefits of employing more than one current and/or emerging leader in organizations are expansive including, but not limited to, succession planning, co-learning through mentorship, and implementation of innovative and creative ideas for creating change.

Current and emerging young leaders are a collaborative movement of young empowered people who have a spirit of unity and hope. They are applying their passion and hope by creating change and leading by example. Addressing the concerns of the late Nelson Mandela, this collaborative and powerful movement of young leaders aims to address the under-representation of youth as a widespread phenomenon in conservation, recognizing that without them, the future cannot be secured.

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