Youth speaks out about involvement in Forests Asia Summit


This story was originally published on the Melbourne School of Land and Environment website.

Recent Master of Forest Ecosystem Science graduate and a current Melbourne School of Land and Environment tutor, Sarah Dickson-Hoyle discusses her role with the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA), and her current work in co-coordinating the ‘Youth in Southeast Asia’ session at the upcoming Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta, May 5 – 6, 2014.

In 2013, thanks to the generous support of the Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science, I represented the University of Melbourne at the 41st International Forestry Students’ Symposium. There, I was lucky enough to be elected as ‘Liaison Officer’, responsible for managing our formal partnership with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a major forestry research institute based in Bogor, Indonesia.

Over the past seven months I’ve been working closely with CIFOR to build our partnership, and to advocate on behalf of international forestry students worldwide for youth participation and opportunities in international forestry events and decision making processes.

On May 5 and 6 this year, CIFOR will host the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta. This event will bring together government ministers, civil society, development experts and top forestry scientists to share knowledge and shape policy on sustainable forest and landscape management for green growth in Southeast Asia.

While youth are increasingly getting involved in policy and research across these sectors, we face numerous challenges in terms of opportunities to contribute and have our voices heard. Major conferences continue to follow the same old format of presentation after presentation, with little opportunity for deep discussions or youth engagement.

Through our IFSA – CIFOR partnership, we wanted to change that.

We believe young people should have a strong presence at the Forests Asia Summit, and we wanted to find a way to bring together the best and brightest young minds from Southeast Asia and the wider region to talk about the future of the region’s forests

Through my official role with IFSA, I’ve been lucky enough to be leading our co-coordination — in partnership with CIFOR and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) — of the special session ‘Youth in Southeast Asia’ to be held on May 5. I was determined that this should not be another ‘talk fest’, and that we needed to come up with an exciting and dynamic new format that would foster creative ideas and actionable outcomes.

So, how are we doing that?

The session will open with a talk from an inspiring young Southeast Asian forester, who will share experiences and concrete tips for getting youth actively involved in forestry and forest policy.

Participants – a diverse mix of ‘youth’ and professionals interested in youth issues – will then be split into five roundtables, where they will discuss ways to tackle a specific challenge facing Southeast Asia’s forests and people.

Each roundtable will be moderated by a specially selected young person from, or with experience, in the region and discussions will centre around the five summit themes, on a topic identified through active online discussions and liaisons with the summit’s policy working groups. By connecting moderators to these working groups, our aim is that the outcomes of the session will have a real impact, and that our ideas will actually be heard.

It’s been an incredibly exciting and rewarding (and a steep learning!) experience to be a part of the coordinating team for this event. It’s given me insight into the process of developing, designing, and implementing a major international event.

Over the coming month I’ll be continuing to work closely with CIFOR, YPARD, and our inspiring young moderators, and, more excitingly, I’ll be heading to Jakarta for a week in May to have a hands-on presence throughout the whole summit.

I think this session has the potential to serve as a great example of how international organisations and events can better work to engage youth in a meaningful way. Not only will this provide young people with opportunities, and help build capacity, but it will also provide a platform to tap into the passion, creativity, and energy of young people to help identify innovative ideas and solutions to tackle major issues.