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On the Summit on Biodiversity 30th September 2020

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

by Ms. Archana Soreng, Member of UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change

The United Nations Summit on Biodiversity was convened by the President of the General Assembly on 30 September 2020, at the level of Heads of State and Government. This session was under the theme of “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development.” It provided an opportunity for leaders to develop the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. This is to be adopted at the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021.

The Opening Segment of Summit on Biodiversity started with the address of the H. E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the General Assembly. It was followed by the address of H.E. Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations.

Ms. Archana Soreng, one of the seven members of UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, comes from the Khadia Tribe an Indigenous Community in India. She addressed the Opening Segment of the Summit on Biodiversity as the sole Youth Representative in Summit. She spoke after HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince of Wales Conservation Trust.

After her participation in the General Assembly, Ms. Archana Soreng initiated a Consultative Process with different stakeholders. This started with an Inter-Generational Consultation Process with her Alma mater Tata Institute of Social Sciences on 7th September. She also consulted other stakeholders including environmental youth groups of India such as 'Friday For Future India', 'Xtinction Rebellion India', 'Let India Breathe', 'Friday For Future Jharkhand', 'Earth Day Network', 'Earth Advsior', 'YUGMA Network', 'Climate Front India', 'Youth For Climate India', 'Climate Front Jammu', 'India Climate Feed' and 'Xtinction Rebellion Vizag Chapter'.

Ms. Archana Soreng, highlighted the following messages in the Summit on Biodiversity:

First, Nurture the indigenous practices and empower local communities as the main stakeholders within decision making structures for biodiversity conservation, taking into consideration Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

For centuries being responsible stewards of biodiversity, we have confronted environmentally destructive projects pursued by states and corporations. Though we are protecting environments, yet our rights are being violated in the name of biodiversity conservation. We will be able to continue to protect biodiversity only when we feel secure, for which it is important to respect, recognize and enforce our rights over our land and forest.

Second, we need to revisit our ambitions and approach to conservation and protected areas.

Doubling protected areas to cover 30% of the globe, as some want to see in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, will lead to immense human rights violations. It could constitute the biggest land grab of world history reducing millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation. Removing Us from our land in order to protect ‘nature’ - is deeply colonial and environmentally damaging. We should be the leaders of conservation – not victims of it.

My third and the last message to world leaders is that: We, the Youth - are your biggest allies to protect the future of our planet and reverse biodiversity loss.

We are and will be facing the impacts of the biodiversity crisis. Despite this, we remain marginalized, unrecognized, and under-represented in decision-making spaces. More pro-active steps are the way forward to ensure inter-sectional and inter-generational equity.

We are tired of countless environmental pledges, agreements and failed commitments. All we want to say is that "We are ready to work with you to reverse the biodiversity loss. The question is: “Are You?”

Archana Soreng hails from the Khadia Tribe, an Indigenous Community from Odisha, India. She is a Member of UN Secretary General's Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and Research Officer in Vasundhara Odisha. Reproduced with the author's permission

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