Monday, 12 May 2014

Youth take centre stage at Forests Asia Summit

Last week, ACIAR Graduate Research Officer Jack Koci was in Jakarta, Indonesia to participate in the Forests Asia Summit, where he met some inspiring young people determined to have a say in the future of South-East Asia’s forests...

The Forests Asia Summit, organised by the Centre for International Forestry (CIFOR) and hosted by the Ministry of Forestry, the Republic of Indonesia, brought together over 2000 participants to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the forest landscapes of South-East Asia and beyond. The overall theme for the Summit was sustainable landscapes for green growth in South-East Asia.

While the Summit was attended by Ministers, CEOs, civil society leaders, development experts and some of the world’s top scientists, it was the younger participants who captured people’s attention...even that of the Indonesian President.

Members of the food security roundtable discussion at the Summit
In his opening address, the Indonesian President, H.E. Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, remarked, "I am particularly pleased to learn that more than one hundred youths are participating in this auspicious occasion. Your participation shows that we do share similar dedication to preserve our natural environment. This is a testament of your readiness to shoulder the noble goal of safe-guarding our tropical forests."

One of the most insightful and enjoyable sessions of the Summit was on Youth in South-East Asia, organised by CIFOR, International Forestry Students Association (IFSA) and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD). Following an inspiring opening address by Andhyta Utami, youth were split into five roundtables where they discussed ways to tackle a challenge facing South-East Asia’s forests. Each roundtable was moderated by a specially chosen youth moderator. You could genuinely feel the energy in the room as young minds came together to generate innovative ideas and provide new perspectives on the Summit themes. 

In the closing plenary session, Sarah Dickson-Hoyle from IFSA brought actions from the youth session to the attention of the wider Summit audience. In her speech, Sarah urged the global community to better integrate youth in decision making-processes.
Youth moderators presenting roundtable outcomes

The Top Twenty Questions for forestry and landscapes (T20Q) initiative affords one such opportunity for youth to have their voices heard. CIFOR Director General Dr Peter Holmgren launched the initiative on the final day of the Summit. T20Q is a global project that will allow participants to have their say in setting research and policy agendas. It is open from May to October 2014 with ideas collected through workshops, online surveys and social media.

Farahiyah Filailly, a student of Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia, called T20Q a "golden opportunity for youth" and I agree. 

I'm one of the founding members of a new Australian-based network, Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID). This group is being established to engage, connect and support early to mid-career researchers. It was great to see other networks such as IFSA and YPARD in action - inspiring young people to get involved and make a difference in agricultural research and development. 

By Jack Koci, ACIAR Graduate Research Officer and RAID member

More information:
ACIAR's Forestry research program
Forests Asia Summit website
T20Q website

See RAID's Facebook page (their website is currently under development)

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