Meet the youth session opening speaker: Andhyta Utami

Andhyta Utami is a 22-year-old researcher and activist who will be the opening speaker for the youth session.

Andhyta Utami is a 22-year-old researcher and activist who will be the opening speaker for the youth session.

Andhyta will be delivering the opening speech at the youth session focused on her own experience as a young person making a difference in Southeast Asia’s forestry sector.

Find out more about the youth session here! 

This morning I woke up with a two sudden realizations. The first is that, in a fortnight’s time, I will have my one-year anniversary of working in the forestry sector. Coming from an international relations background where, until recently, I had limited involvement in environmental issues, I’m humbled to have been given the opportunity to speak at the Forests Asia Summit.

My relationship with trees did not develop from a coup de foudre. It was a rather long and complicated road until I decided that I wanted to devote my time to fighting deforestation.

The first stop was in 2011, when I worked at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources as an intern for their Energy Efficiency and Conservation Clearing House. During that period, I learned how reliable data and sufficient research could really contribute to better decisions.

My next stop was in 2012 with the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, at the Open Government Secretariat. There, being exposed to the big difference a better system could make, my interest in good governance grew.

After these two major roles, I took the opportunity to be a researcher for the World Resources Institute—an action-oriented organization whose approach focuses on both providing reliable data and influencing policy-makers.

Entering the Institute as a new player, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of challenges there are in the forestry game. So far, our project focusing on sustainable land-use—including how we could shift oil palm development to degraded lands—already taught me that the forestry sector is a complicated web of different interests from various stakeholders at different levels.

This indeed makes problem solving a difficult task. At the same time, however, I also believe that there is a solution to every problem, and that problems are the best driver for ideas and innovation.

That links to my second epiphany: how youth have been marginalized in the forestry sector.

If there’s anything I hold on to more than the power of good data and governance, it’s youth. We are full of ideas, not submissive to dogmatic premises, and, above anything else, optimistic about the future we want to build. Some people call our idealism ‘naivety’, but I’d like to call it a ‘source of inspiration’.

Hence outside work, I try to contribute most of my energy to empowering Indonesian youth. Indonesian Future Leaders, an organization my friends and I co-founded in 2009, has now grown to a scale we had never imagined, with hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of beneficiaries. Our efforts are streamlined into three main pillars: capacity building, community service, as well as advocacy and promotion.

Throughout 2013, I was appointed as the chairwoman for Youth Parliament Indonesia, a national movement that aims to increase youth participation in policy-making process as well as democracy in general. Interestingly, from our regional consultations with over 1,400 youth in 34 provinces, we found that environment and sustainable development is the second most urgent issue that they addressed (the first is education).

In addition to this, through my involvement as the Head of State for Indonesia to the Y20 Summit 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and as a youth representative for the Post-2015 Development Agenda National Consultation in Jakarta, I have become even more convinced that youth can make a huge difference.

We’ve been told that forestry and sustainability are not the sexiest issues for youth. But my friends and I proved that this is a myth. Youth do care about the environment, and I believe that many of them are also passionate to be involved as part of the solution.

I am looking forward to the youth session at the Forests Asia Summit, as a starting point for greater involvement of youth in the forestry sector, especially at the policy level. It is also a great avenue for the young generation to demonstrate their interesting ideas for forests in Southeast Asia to the very people who most need to listen to them.

Andhyta, also known as Afu, is a 22-year-old environmental researcher and a firm believer in the power of good governance. When not glued to a screen, you can find her in the corner of a coffee shop either reading literature or talking about language and politics.

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