Ivonne Lobos Alva will be facilitating a discussion at the youth session on sustainable development
Growing up in a small town at the heart of a major coffee-growing area in northern Guatemala gave me the opportunity to be surrounded by beautiful landscapes from early on and also explains my love for a good cappuccino! But my motivation to dedicate my time to the sustainable management of natural resources was inspired by my father’s teachings. When I was seven years old, my family moved to Costa Rica while my father conducted research at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). It was a privilege to have this experience as we lived in a community with people from all over the world and now I can look back and say that my best friends back then came from places as varied as Brazil, Canada and Finland. We were surrounded by green fields and fruit trees and my interest in nature and its function grew bigger every day.
Once back in Guatemala, I focused on finishing my environmental engineering studies while traveling around the region. My main focus during the bachelor was on agroecology as I wanted to learn how to manage ecosystems in a way that makes sense for nature and for people. My interest in finding the links between natural and social systems motivated me to work with International Development Organizations such as the Canadian International Development Agency and the European Commission in projects that supported rural development, disaster risk reduction and sustainable natural resource management in Guatemala and Nicaragua.
During this time, I became aware of the fact that one cannot fix social and environmental problems exclusively with technical solutions. You also need to influence policies to have an impact. For this reason, I moved to Germany to do a master’s in environmental governance as I wanted to learn about effective environmental and sustainability policies so I could go back and contribute to change things in my home country. Contrary to my initial plan, I ended up liking the country and its people so much that I took a job at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) so I could further my knowledge on sustainable soil management and land governance.
Bringing innovative and jointly developed ideas into global sustainability discussions is what I do for a living. At the IASS, my work focuses on highlighting the underpinning role of soil and land functions for sustainable development and creating joint proposals for the inclusion of this role in the Sustainable Development Goals. Together with my colleagues, I set up multi-stakeholder dialogues at the German, European and international level to influence the United Nations process leading up to a Post-2015 Development Framework. I also conduct research on the sustainable production of renewable resources to minimize potential negative implications for food security and land use. This work gives me the opportunity to work together with partners from science, civil society organizations and government and find strategies to address sustainability issues that reflect the perspectives of these different stakeholders. In these processes, I am repeatedly faced with the difficult task to identify and engage bright young representatives that can provide a fresh take on a particular topic and this is why I am interested in the youth session at the Global Landscapes Forum. It is a great opportunity to discuss the role of landscapes in the post-2015 development agenda as this agenda will set the global vision for sustainable development for the next 15 years and a youth perspective should be a part of it.
Young people have great things to add to global debates but need to be offered and also actively take the space to convey their perspective to other peers. In July of this year, I attended the meeting of the High Level Political Forum in New York and was happy to see many young people there, however, the messages put forward by the group could have been sharper and conveyed in a language that resonates more with delegates and policy makers in the room. I would like to support engaged young people to get involved and look forward to meeting many of you in Lima.
This belongs to a blog series profiling youth and leadership in landscapes. Tell us your youth story – submit blogs to [email protected].