Franco-Russian dialogue at the IUCN World Conservation Congress

We did it! And what an achievement to have been able to present the results of the Franco-Russian dialogue on climate change at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. Here is the story of four young people presenting ideas of the French and Russian youth to take action on some biodiversity urgent issues.

What is the IUCN World Conservation Congress?

Let starts with the beginning and talk more about the IUCN World Conservation Congress. This week-long event was the place where the world came together to set priorities and stem the biodiversity crisis. It seems right to say that the pandemic, climate and biodiversity emergencies and only intensify the inequalities around the world. As Harrison Ford said at the opening ceremony, ‘It is not alright.’

Indeed, there is a need to rapidly act and change our system through collective work. Hence, more than 1300 governments, civil societies and indigenous peoples’ Member organisations gathered in Marseille to coordinate their ideas. Not only that, but this event was also the exhibition of all the existing sciences, practices and policies for conservation and sustainable developments, created and supported by stakeholders all around the world.

To best portray the newest developments in the field and enhanced a needed collective work, the congress was composed of three elements.

First, the member’s assembly, which is IUCN’s highest decision-making body who voted on pressing conservation and sustainable development issues. We highly recommend that you read the Marseille Manifesto issued by the assembly and which presents the guidelines that IUCN wants to pursuit to define our future relationship with nature.

Secondly, the Forum or a giant hub of public debate to discuss and co-develop solutions. Finally, an exhibition where IUCN Members and Commissions, businesses, partners, and academia hosted stands and events, open to the public. But maybe what stoke us the most was the ‘Nature Generation area’ as part of the Exhibition.

This area, open to the general public and most importantly adapted to a younger public, really offered visitors creative and playful experiences that raised awareness of biodiversity, such as giant terrariums or. When we first arrived on site, all those activities screamed at us the message, “The youth is welcome and we are ready to hear you”.

In the end, one of the most inspiring things about this congress is that it brought together decision makers, experts, activists, businesses and the population, particularly the youth, together to foster a sustainable future. And we were there!

What is our project?

Thanks to the Trianon Dialogue and the French Institut and YEE, Anna, Valery, Konstantin and myself were able to talk about our project as guests of the French Pavilion at the Exhibition area. During our 30 min slot, we presented the results of the Franco-Russian dialogue on Climate change. You can find all the details about the project on the YEE website, but it still feels important to remind the logic behind the project. The dialogue was taught as a tool to empower and connect the French and Russian youth to become the voice of their generation by :

1) developing ideas to contribute to the efforts made to tackle the climate emergency

2) raise concerns to political actors in their countries.

For the past nine months, we organised a series of Online Dialogues facilitated by a YEE trainer and expert speakers, that covered four topics related to both countries and climate change – sustainable energy, biodiversity, the Arctic and sustainable cities. As a great opportunity to share and acquire knowledge, the online dialogues were the basis on which the participants formed 4 working groups and constructed a Policy paper. In June, we published our paper “20 propositions for the next 20 years” composed of 5 propositions covering each topic. As we said at the congress :

“Our paper displays the willingness of the youth to be more involved in political action on climate change mitigation. This paper, although it is trying to be based on scientific facts as much as possible, remains a reflection of what the youth found the most urging actions to take on. We are not yet experts and our work can always be improved, mainly thanks to your help as well, but we think that our voice should be heard and the policy paper is the first step to achieve it.”

As the congress focused on biodiversity, we decided to present our 5 propositions about biodiversity. Anna and Valery, our participant and ambassador of the project developed the proposition they worked on namely over-exploitation and ecosystem services loss.

“Today, 80% of the world’s original forest cover has been degraded or destroyed in just 3 decades.”

Only 20% of the population thinks that biodiversity is a major concern for their country.”

“More than 70 per cent of food crops need pollination, bees themselves have already been doing their job since the end of the Cretaceous period.”

“Many wild animals are in great demand for different uses. For example, in China, more than 1,500 animal species have medicinal value.”

But it was also important to us to expose the other proposition made by the biodiversity group and represent all the work achieved by all the 50 participants. We decided to show a video at the end of our speech to showcasing some of our participants and the reason for their involvement.

Our project was 100% remote, and being able to talk about it in person was the finalisation of our work. But we remain conscious that the next step is the promotion of our Policy Paper through further debate with decision makers and an efficient communication strategy.

How was this whole experience?

Quite frankly, it was awesome….ly scary, rewarding, and important. We can say that this was the first experience in an international congress for the 4 of us and it would be lying to say that there was no stress. But this stress was a good one, it sets our mind to produce the best work possible.

The speech went well and most importantly we felt listened to. We were quite amazed by the organisation of the congress, where everything runs smoothly with the support of the French Pavilion organisation and tech teams. But it is also time to thank the associations that are giving opportunities to young people like us, who start in life, often without networks, means, and few experiences.

To trust us, to believe that we can accomplish such things and to raise us towards these kinds of moments that can mark our lives. It was also very rewarding to have the support and the interest of the public manifested with a small discussion after the presentation, notably have the support of Jayathma Wickramanayake the UN Youth Envoy.

And as Anna rightly said,

“It was an honour to represent the 48 other young people with whom we worked. Bearing their voice to the IUCN WCC was really important for us, not only because it was our project, but because at that moment we were representing all the youth.”

Or Valery:

“This conference was a great international experience, I’m really glad that I was a part of this event and I want to be a part of it in future .”

And yes, we want to believe that the future of the youth will be bright and we still have much to talk about. Therefore, we encourage all the youth that wants to be heard, to join a movement.

You can find our speech following this link (2:22). And again, if you would like to know more about the project or debate about it, please feel free to contact us.