When you ask 10 people to define a “landscape”, chances are you get 10 different answers. Landscapes can be very diverse and perform varying functions for different people. Even at the Global Landscapes Forum, there is no universally agreed upon definition of a landscape.
Is this a problem? I don’t think so. The beauty of the landscape approach is that it includes the whole range of different perceptions to tackle challenges in a holistic way, acknowledging the interconnectedness of all aspects of landscapes. The approach recognises that debates about agriculture should not only be held in the agricultural sector, that discussions about conservation are not only relevant for conservationists and that rural development challenges will not be effectively addressed without including all sectors. In order to effectively improve our landscapes, we need to bring all actors together and look for integrated solutions. The Global Landscapes Forum is doing exactly that.
For me, this integrative view is very important, and I tried to reflect that in my choice of study. I did my Bachelor’s in Biology, specialising in Ecology, which gave me a good understanding of the natural world. However, to increase my knowledge on environmental problems, I also needed to learn about the social aspects. To this end, I chose my Master’s in Forest and Nature Conservation, where I was selected for the special master track Sustainable Development Diplomacy (SDD). The SDD programme provides me with a deeper understanding of environmental governance and sustainable development, combining knowledge from different study backgrounds. Equally important, the programme focuses on diplomacy to help me communicate my opinions and solutions, and put them into practice.
Currently, I am interning at the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. UN-REDD supports nationally-led REDD+ processes to reduce deforestation in developing countries. It is very inspiring to be at the UN and work on such an important issue. I am learning new things about the international approach to environmental problems every day. But I like to be involved at the local level as well because eventually, this is where the real difference is made. In the Netherlands, I am a board member of the Districts Commission of the Dutch Society for Preservation of Nature Monuments, where we discuss nature conservation issues in our province.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to participate in the Youth in Landscapes Programme and to learn from the other youth facilitators. To be able to share ideas with other youth, coming from all over the world, is very valuable and will hopefully lead to inspiring sessions. I believe youth can play an important role in the landscape debate. We have the passion and the energy to bring about changes in our current systems. We can think out of the box, unhindered by the current silos that sometimes still exist in the environmental sector. Youth do not have to be the “generation of tomorrow” – we can already make an impact today.
I look forward to making an impact with other youth in Marrakech, and beyond!
Roy Winkelhuijzen is one of the 10 young professionals who will facilitate a session at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum in Morocco. Learn more about this year’s Global Landscapes Forum’s Youth activities; meet our 10 youth facilitators, and discover the Youth in Landscape Initiative!