par Ananya Ashok


To be a called a global family suited the Go4BioDiv International Youth Forum just perfectly. 35 young people from marine and coastal biodiversity sites and marine world heritage sites from across the world gathered at the Go4BioDiv Nature Camp held at the Sundarbans, India’s marine world heritage site, for a power packed ten days of sharing on-ground experiences, exchanging ideas, developing solutions to the most pressing of problems and looking forward with foresight of the precautionary principle.

The Go4BioDiv International Youth Forum was initiated in the year 2008 at Bonn, Germany, in parallel to the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Today, four years later, the Forum is a strong network of young people committed to the conservation of biodiversity across the world. The Go4BioDiv Forum this year began in May 2012 with a virtual phase where the messengers gained more knowledge on biodiversity issues through an e-coaching platform and discussed issues related to biodiversity conservation.


At the live phase of Go4BioDiv 2012 which was held at Sundarbans and Hyderabad, the young messengers focused on the theme of "Conserving coastal & marine biodiversity for sustaining life and livelihoods”. The theme was divided into four workshop groups on various topics such as, science, livelihoods, fisheries and governance, and biodiversity communication, discussing the immediate and future challenges to biodiversity.

At Sundarbans, the messengers went on excursions around the mangroves, visited a livelihood project by the WWF on the neighbouring Rajat Jubilee Island, watched the traditional play of Bonbibi - the forest goddess of Sundarbans, interacted with local communities, learnt about Royal Bengal Tigers from forest officials and continued to grow more fascinated with the unique ecosystem of impenetrable mangrove forests.

“Leave this place alone for a few years and you will not be able to recognise it when you come back. The mangroves reclaim their land. It is a continuous struggle for existence between man and nature here.” said one of the forest guards who spoke to us.

Preparations at the Sundarbans Nature Camp finally resulted in a powerful Youth Declaration and creative messages to the wider public by means of theatre and dance. The youth messengers arrived at the venue of the COP11, CBD,


Hyderabad on October 16th. At COP Go4BioDiv messengers communicated with the wider public through creative performances, interacted with delegates and voiced the views of youth on biodiversity conservation. ‘Fish from the Sea’s Edge’, a giant fish was made by UK artist, Mr. Silas Birtwistle, using plastic debris collected by the Go4BioDiv messengers from the marine and coastal sites they represent.

At the exhibition, Go4BioDiv booth housed, “You can NOT put our life in Aquariums” (aquarium tanks set up with materials unique for each marine site represented), “Spirit of the oceans” (sails with traditional sayings from various sites inscribed upon them in different languages), “Everything belongs to nature” (a huge shrimp serving as the Go4BioDiv mascot) apart from panels featuring quotes from the messengers, information about Go4BioDiv and the theme. Copies of a booklet featuring all the messengers and the sites they represent were kept for available for easy access to the public. The Mundus maris babyfish book markers fitted thematically well into the concerns debated and were widely distributed.


Besides these activities, Go4BioDiv held four separate side events – “youth perspective on fisheries and governance”, “the science café”, “livelihoods and management” and “journey through life” – a creative performance event. Go4BioDiv Messengers participated in the Future Policy Award Ceremony, where Heather Ketebengang from Palao, received the gold award on behalf of her country delegation for outstanding marine conservation policies at the Future Policy Award ceremony.

The views of the entire youth population in the world were voiced by Ananya Ashok, India, Go4BioDiv and Melina Sakiyama, Brazil, Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), by way of a joint youth intervention in the High Level Segment of the COP on 18 October 2012. Their intervention stressed the need for effective regulations, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of coastal and marine biodiversity assets, support for the establishment of national youth delegations, resource mobilisation and wider participation of youth in decision making processes for biodiversity at all levels.

Spirited youth participation in the COP carried forward the message, “Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life. Conserve it by all means.” Go4BioDiv did not end with COP but will continue to engage its messengers through various outreach activities during the forthcoming two years of Indian presidency of the Convention on Biological Diversity.