World Wildlife Day is a very special day on the UN calendar that raises awareness of wildlife conservation with the general public and galvanize action in national and international fora. It is today the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.
The theme for this year - ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, aims to inspire young people around the world to actively participate in wildlife conservation efforts.
Youth are the agents of change. We recognise that our young citizens have the greatest chance of ensuring the survival of the world’s precious wildlife. It is the obligation of the current generation to share their knowledge of wildlife conservation with the younger generations, whilst also empowering and encouraging them to actively engage and participate in innovative and creative ways. Investment in our young people will help ensure the continued survival of wild animals and plants and support the fight against the devastating illicit trade in wildlife.
The theme of this year also comes alongside other strident efforts to encourage youth contribution, such as the work of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth and the first ever CITES Resolution on youth engagement adopted at its 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which calls for the engagement and empowerment of the youth in issues of wildlife conservation.
We have already begun to see the integration of young voices into wildlife conservation issues through the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife in the lead-up to CITES CoP17 and South Africa`s Youth and Conservation Programme both of which were a great success.
World Wildlife Day 2017 gives us the opportunity to generate enthusiasm for wildlife conservation amongst younger generations, and to provide platforms for them to engage with one another on conservation issues. I encourage youth around the world to take a personal interest in wildlife conservation and to help fight wildlife crimes. Let your voice be heard on the safeguarding of wild animals and plants for generations to come.
Working across generations for wildlife conservation is in everyone’s interest – and it will benefit economies and people as well as wild animals and plants.
It’s time for all of us to listen to the young voices.
John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES