Central African youth leaders and youth support groups rally in support of their forests, biodiversity and climate
Summary: Following the workshop on the prospects for implementing CEFDHAC reform, which took place in Douala from 21 to 22 May 2008 and following the Kigali CEFDHAC meeting, it became clear that there was a need to organize general assemblies for the youth, women, parliamentarians and indigenous peoples’ networks, that would establish legally recognized structures and appoint their legal representatives. Learn more...
Is the Congo Basin’s future in jeopardy?
CBFP partners are urged to place the youth at the heart of interventions in the Congo Basin, thereby helping to guarantee sustainable investments and contribute towards the sustainable development of the countries concerned. It is a call for the active and direct involvement of youth leaders and youth support organizations in the Partners’ projects and programmes. Central Africa’s future hangs in the balance, with the sub-region on the one hand and the entire planet’s future on the other hand, in light of ecosystem services provided by the world’s second lung as the Congo Basin is also known.
Youth leaders and youth support organizations in Central Africa have come together under the Network of Youth Leaders’ Network for sustainable management of forest and humid ecosystems of Central Africa (REJEFAC) and are actively campaigning for their forests, biodiversity and climate in each of the ten countries, at the level of primary and secondary schools, universities, in professional circles, villages and communities, decentralized local communities, cities through a host of projects, programs and efforts conducted at the local, national, regional and international levels.
In this article, we will review:
The core tenets of the creation of REJEFAC;
Solemn commitment...to the slogan “With or without pay, I pledge my allegiance to my community”;
REJEFAC - Regional mobilization in close ranks;
The pressing need for fund-raising;
Structuring challenges at the local, national and regional levels.
(1) Core tenets of the creation of REJEFAC;
The saying goes “youth is the country’s future”, “youth today is the future of tomorrow”. Central African youth leaders and youth support organization are rising up today, not tomorrow, to support their forests, biodiversity and climate. They are already involved and are campaigning in each of the ten Central African countries to avoid a poisoned legacy. They are well aware that the hopes and future of Central Africa and its forest ecosystems rest squarely on young people’s shoulders in spite of major changes taking place in our world today.
In this regard, the youth in our Congo Basin countries have in recent years been pushing for a basic right, the right to have a viable and habitable Planet tomorrow. The threats are sobering and serious: disruption of livelihood support systems like forest ecosystems, climate and biodiversity, a rekindling of the arms race, rising inequality, the deterioration of public health, Covid-19 and certain States headed in the wrong direction… In the face of these huge threats, denial, tuning out and ignorance are no longer options. For a growing number of youths, the scales are falling, blithe consumerism is no longer acceptable, anxiety is becoming palpable, school curricula are being reassessed for relevance, and mobilization has become the only logical course of action.
A movement was born in the 2008s, the Central African Forest Youth Network- long may it prosper! While the “adult world” affirmed long ago in the Rights of Future Generations, according to the famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “We do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we lend it to our children”, foreshadowing the idea of sustainability, it’s up to the youth to claim these rights as the elementary and biological evidence and basis for all other rights (and duties!). For any social movement to shape events in a lasting manner, it must have 1) a structure and spokespersons and 2) the ability to formulate specific demands.
2) Solemn commitment...to the slogan” With or without pay, I pledge my allegiance to my community”;
A- Youth serving as volunteers at CBFP Meetings of Parties and Conferences since June 2015.
Volunteer participation in the Meeting of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) has now become customary practice. Young volunteers made their first test participation in the 15th edition of the CBFP at the Yaoundé Conference Centre in Cameroon. The test proved to be a huge success. This first successful participation encouraged the European Union to continue soliciting the services of young volunteers. Hence in 2015, young volunteers from Rwanda were invited to take part in the 16th edition that took place in the country. In response to the high quality of the services provided by these youths, the European Union CBFP Facilitation once more called on the young volunteers to serve at the 17th edition which took place from 13 to 27 October 2017 at the Sawa Hotel in Douala in Cameroon. This third participation was different from the previous two in that the volunteers were directly involved in the organization and conduct of the proceedings. Three days prior to the Meeting, they gathered and immediately began logistic preparations.
They were selected based on the CBFP website’s volunteer database. Gender equity was considered in the selection process which aimed to encourage young girls and give them an opportunity to express themselves. In the end, thirty-one youths were selected in all from the Adamawa, Centre and Littoral regions. The AJVC (the project proponent), the JVE, REJEFAC, CADDE and REFADD are some of the organizations to which these volunteers belong, with girls making up 60% overall. The youths were involved in several activities over the course of the meeting. In the logistics department, they were responsible for designing badges and putting kits together for the participants. In the meeting rooms, they were charged with the set up and smooth functioning of the sound system and small equipment needed by the participants during the conference.
The youths successfully ran the Meeting secretariat and did the printing, photocopying and archiving of documents, among other things. Their huge and active presence at the reception desk helped facilitate registration and guidance of participants. Since the volunteers were assigned tasks based on their profile, those who had a technical and scientific knowledge on the topics discussed were assigned either to the colleges, Streams or to certain public figures. Hence during Stream 1 on forest governance, Stream 2 on Biodiversity and Stream 3 on Climate Change, the “junior experts” in addition to taking care of the logistics, helped the rapporteurs with note taking and drafting of minutes. The young volunteers who were assigned to the Colleges demonstrated the same proactive spirit. Some of the EU Facilitation’s Experts and Officers were assisted by the volunteers who either served as translators, or helped them with note-taking or logistics.
The young volunteers from Cameroon seized the opportunity to strengthen their technical and logistic skills for organizing large events. They learned more about the main themes and projects relating to environmental protection and sustainable management of Congo Basin forests. Some of them established personal contact with a few public figures.
The CBFP also provided an opportunity for the shortlisted youth organizations to informally introduce themselves to the participants. As for REJEFAC, its presentation focused on introducing its new strategic framework. This presentation began at Radio Environnement. Later on, through B2B contacts and supporting documents, REJEFAC met with experts, public figures, donors, partners and many others. It presented its strategic framework which comprises four strategic axes (SA). SA 1 deals with peace and security issues surrounding protected areas and natural resource management and SA 2 is concerned with reforestation, forest conservation and restoring degraded soils. As for SA 3, it addresses issues relating to integrated water management while SA 4 tackles all cross-cutting issues such as capacity building, financial support and technology transfer.
It is also worth noting that REJEFAC took part in the CBFP meeting in Brussels (Belgium) in November 2018 and in December 2019 in Yaoundé (Cameroon).
B- Youths mobilized during celebrations of international days
It is important to note that REJEFAC member organizations and the Network’s Coordination office are regular fixtures at Climate Talks (COP CLIMATE) and at CDB-COP Biodiversity meetings as well. In order to prepare the youth for these international debates, REJEFAC’s technical secretariat has successively organized COP in my city (2015-2016); and COP CHEZ NOUS 2017, 2018, 2019 and in light of the COVID-19 situation, an online webinar will be held in October to prepare the youth for the two upcoming COPS and for WWF’s New Deal for Nature and POST 2020.
C- Involvement in Conferences of the Parties: How are the Congo Basin’s young men and women leaders able to work with meagre resources and how do they prepare for upcoming COP events?
The AJVC (www.ajvc.org) which runs the REJEFAC technical secretariat, organizes events in the area of energy (PODC), awareness campaigns and environmental education every year, and this year we decided to postpone the COP CHEZ NOUS 2020 simulation activity to early 2021 and organize a webinar in October 2020 on engaging youth leaders in biodiversity issues.
Through individual and collective efforts, the youth are doing their best to make a contribution. Youth-led civil society organizations and movements are actively working on all fronts. The youth are rallying inhabitants to better protect them and support monitoring efforts. The fight against climate change requires strong, global and ambitious action. It is crucial that the young generations be involved and COP 26 and COP 15 is determined to host the “The Youth Climate Conference” as well as the pre-COP and other sensitization efforts. Rescheduling the COPs will allow the efforts at local and regional level to focus entirely on the issues to be discussed at these international meetings and buy more time for the needed preparations. We will continue working through our public awareness raising and advocacy efforts to engage with all stakeholders to step up our climate ambitions, strengthen resilience and curb emissions.
(3) REJEFAC - Regional mobilization in close ranks: COMIFAC and its GIZ-POST 2020 support programme
Equip the youth with core skills to enable them to transition into a society that lives in harmony with nature:
The modest setting of the Cercle ELAEIS Circle of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo served as the venue, from 11 to 14 March 2020, for the sub-regional finalization workshop on the REJEFAC strategy and operational plan, organized with the technical and financial support of COMIFAC and its GIZ support project. Fortunately, our Youth Leaders’ Network for the Sustainable Management of Central African forest ecosystems met a few weeks before the global COVID outbreak and the onset of confinement. About thirty young leaders from 10 Central African countries took part in a REJEFAC sub-regional workshop held in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC. The workshop’s overall objective was to prepare the REJEFAC youths to draft the Post-2020 Biodiversity Strategic Framework and raise their awareness of biodiversity conservation as part of celebrations marking the World Wildlife Day. The Kinshasa REJEFAC Forum provided an opportunity for the youth leaders to engage actively alongside Member States in discussions around the role that young people, men and women, can play in building sustainable and resilient rural and urban communities that contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The meeting helped to:
Enlighten the REJEFAC members on how to develop the post-2020 strategic framework for biodiversity;
Collect and document comments from the REJEFAC youth to inform the development of the post-2020 strategic framework for biodiversity;
Strengthen the capacities of the Central African youth for wildlife and wild habitat conservation;
Develop a long-term follow-up framework to get REJEFAC youths involved in wildlife conservation efforts and CITES decision-making processes;
Craft a consensus-based approach to revamping REJEFAC whose strategy will take into account emerging themes such as Reducing risks and natural disasters, smart agriculture and waste management;
Validate REJEFAC’s Annual Work Plan 2020 based on the Operationalization Framework for its Regional Strategy and break it down into activities and/or into efforts at the regional and national levels.
Intergenerational injustice must not only address the future, but also the past and present. How can we work together to protect the global climate when some youths, babies and their parents are drowning in the abyss of the Mediterranean, while others stage protests in Brussels, Paris and Quebec alongside their parents and teachers? The climate movement will merely sound hollow in countries that lack essential and pre-materialist goods, given that rallying for such a cause appears to be a concern for those who live in luxury-filled and post-materialist society, not because it lacks validity, but because the human spirit can only awaken to the urgency of climate issues when it is freed from the burden of daily deprivations : a hungry belly has no climate! Poor people and lands as well as their populations and descendants are doomed to bear twice the brunt.
What do the African “township and shantytown generations” have in common with the European “climate generation” aside from the fact that they live on the same Earth whose climate is spinning out of control? Will these impoverished youth in Latin America and developing countries have to foot the bill for the out of control climate, while Europe’s “climate generation” is spared? Our aim is to make sustainable and balanced management of Central Africa’s forest ecosystems attractive to the youth. Can the Congolese children who are sometimes are buried alive in the artisanal mines that feed Western multinational corporations, afford the privilege of being “climate conscious” when they have to scrape by on pennies? Land-grabbing issues? How and who finances the innovative projects of youth leaders and civil society actors in the sub-region?
(5) The stakes
An urgent appeal to the CBFP partners and States and governments: We need you!!! Time is short for the Congo Basin’s youth but there is a long road ahead.
REJEFAC has sent a call to CBFP partners and respective governments and States urging them to place the youth at the heart of interventions in the Congo Basin, as a way of guaranteeing the sustainability of investments. It is a call for the active and direct involvement of youth leaders and youth support groups in the Partners’ projects and programmes. Central Africa’s future hangs in the balance, with the sub-region on the one hand and the entire planet’s future on the other hand, in light of ecosystem services provided by the world’s second lung as the Congo Basin is also known. Central African youth have come together under the Network of Central African Forest Youth for sustainable management of forest and humid ecosystems of Central Africa (REJEFAC) and are actively campaigning for their forests, biodiversity and climate in each of the ten countries, at the level of primary and secondary schools, universities, in professional circles, villages and communities, decentralized local communities, cities through a host of projects, programs and efforts conducted at the local, national, regional and international levels.
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