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  • World Wildlife Day Regional Youth Symposium 2024

    24 – 25 February 2024, Singapore

    Connecting People and Planet: Exploring Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation

    Dear speakers and guests, youth leaders, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!

    Let me begin by commending the organisers for coming up with the theme of this year’s symposium, Connecting People and Planet: Exploring Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation. Technology and other digital innovations have the power to dramatically change the way we approach biodiversity conservation. Today’s young generation, with their innate creativity and technological know-how, can be the game-changers that we need to effectively conserve and safeguard our fragile wildlife and their habitats.

    The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity or ACB recognises the vital role of the youth in conservation not just at the local level, but also at the regional and global levels. In 2018, we initiated in partnership with the European Union, the ASEAN Youth Biodiversity Programme or AYBP to empower the youth in ASEAN by engaging them to contribute to the formulation and implementation of biodiversity policies and actions at various levels. We partner with the Global Youth Biodiversity Network—the official youth constituency of the Convention on Biological Diversity or CBD.

    Since then, this youth programme has made significant strides in empowering young biodiversity advocates in the ASEAN—so much so that it is now an institutionalized programme in the ACB, endorsed by the ASEAN Member States.

    Some of the most notable subprogrammes of the AYBP include the Young Biodiversity Leaders, Youth Internship in Protected Areas, and Young ASEAN Storytellers. Through these endeavours, the ASEAN youth received capacity enhancement opportunities and active participation in various spheres of biodiversity conservation—from decision-making, leadership training, protected area management, as well as communication, education, and public awareness, among others.

    The Young ASEAN Storytellers are talented young individuals representing the AMS who communicate the values of biodiversity through compelling stories using digital media. The first batch of YAS created stories featuring ASEAN Heritage Parks, and their works were immortalised in a 3D exhibition hosted by the ACB. Celine Murillo, a vlogger and a YAS representing the Philippines produces videos promoting native tree species. Our YAS from Myanmar, Aung Chan Thar, conducted a capacity development activity on wildlife photography for park managers and the youth. Their photo exhibition in Myanmar was visited by ministry leaders.

    The works of your YAS are continuously getting more attention especially from national leaders, ambassadors, and the media. Our YAS from Singapore, Elliot Ong, continues to raise awareness through his bite-sized ASEAN biodiversity blog on his social media page.

    We are truly proud of our Young ASEAN Storytellers for effectively popularising biodiversity data and information through innovative forms such as podcasts, vlogs, artwork, spoken poetry, and photos, connecting better to a wider audience.

    Technology has also revolutionised the monitoring of wildlife with the advent of drones, DNA barcoding, and camera trapping system, to name a few. Hence, the YAS were likewise provided with camera, camera lens, and drones that were useful in documenting biodiversity. Park managers assist these storytellers who were allowed to use the photos captured by camera traps.

    All the data gathered through these modern technologies should then be translated into  processed information that should be easily accessed by the public. Thus, the ACB develops and maintains digital knowledge management platforms and tools such as the ASEAN Clearing House Mechanism and the ASEAN Biodiversity Dashboard—which guide the AMS in conservation planning, monitoring, and decision-making. Because of the wealth of biodiversity data that are easily accessible, unlike before, it is high time to translate these data into messages that are interesting and tailored to specific target groups. And this is where we need help from you, young leaders and well-versed communicators of today.

    Highlighting the need to communicate biodiversity to invoke transformative change, the ACB launched a campaign called #WeAreASEANBiodiversity: Our home, our lives, our stories. This is a strategic communication campaign to promote an inclusive, whole-of-community approach to biodiversity actions, to encourage a wide range of contributions from individual actions to regional cooperation.

    Through this campaign, the ACB partners with prominent media personalities and influencers in the region who have volunteered to share their voices to amplify the regional call for an integrated and whole-of-community approach including the use of digital media in biodiversity protection among wider local, regional, and national audiences. Last but not the least, our growing number of publications both online and in print, now contain QR codes so that our target audience—specifically visitors navigating our website, may easily access and download them wherever they are in the world.

    In closing, we at the ACB will work hand in hand with this year’s new ASEAN Chairman, Lao PDR and its programs under the theme, “ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience”. By this, all the more, we expect a deeper engagement of the youth sector in the sustainable management of biodiversity towards achieving resilience in the ASEAN region. Through the dynamism and innovative ways of the new generation, we strive for greater connectivity through digital innovation and creative arts—to safeguard our most precious wildlife and keep the balance of our natural world.

     I wish you all a fun and memorable symposium while building connections and learning from other fellow young leaders in this event. Happy World Wildlife Day!

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