Mona Betour El Zoghbi will be pitching an idea or recommendation at the youth session on the GLF theme ‘landscapes and the post-2015 development agenda’.
Growing up in the busy and beautiful city of Beirut, my favorite childhood memories are lying in and amongst the fields of olive trees at our hilltop hometown village in northern Lebanon, which our family often visited. I remember climbing – and often falling out of – trees, building tree-houses and imagining secret hideaways, carving our names on large trunks and making necklaces from fallen leaves and petals. I remember the excitement of waking up before dawn to join my grandmother in picking figs, grapes and berries, and the wonderful riverside picnics with cool water and fresh food.
My love for nature guided my academic pathway, leading me to pursue my undergraduate and graduate studies in Environmental Sciences and Public Health. I soon realized my passion for engaging youth with the natural environment and for developing meaningful and long-lasting connections with all the beauty around us. I therefore decided to focus my PhD study on exploring the diverse ways in which young people in different geographic and cultural settings are engaging with their natural and social environment, and the ways in which we can all work together to lead our societies to more sustainable living. I conducted my fieldwork in the Netherlands and South Africa, where I facilitated very interesting discussions with youth about their personal concerns and experiences and their visions for a sustainable future. I also participated in numerous conferences and forums for youth leadership on climate change and sustainability issues, the most recent being the UNESCO 2014 ‘World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development’ in Japan.
I have been continuously amazed by the unique passion and motivation that drives young people to do environmental work. I am also inspired by the creative projects and activities developed and implemented by youth, in many cases with limited support from their communities and local governments. The lack of adequate guidance and support for young people to effectively implement local and global environmental initiatives provides me with continuous motivation to actively look for ways to enhance the scope, quality and impact of their contributions. This is where I believe the youth sessions at the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum could play an important role: by providing an opportunity and a platform for youth from around the globe to share lessons, develop skills and ideas, and collaborate on action projects that promote sustainable and resilient development in their communities.
In my role as youth pitcher at the GLF 2014, my priority is to capture the essence of the youth discussions on landscapes and the post-2015 development agenda, and identify and develop key ideas and recommendations that are pertinent, useful, and workable. Pertinent to solving contemporary and complex global challenges of rising rates in poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation; useful for communities whose livelihoods and health depend on fragile ecosystems; and workable – moving together beyond ideas and visions to active and innovative responses that can have meaningful impact to people’s lives, livelihoods and well-being.
At the GLF 2014, young people from all over the world will have the opportunity to engage with other sectors and stakeholders of society in honest and profound discussions about our future and build strong networks and partnerships for our future. I hope to learn about the experiences of diverse youth who are undertaking environmental projects in their communities, to build leadership skills and lasting networks for future collaborations, and to develop inspiring communication and dissemination strategies for sharing experiences and engaging with the global community.
This belongs to a blog series profiling youth and leadership in landscapes. Tell us your youth story – submit blogs to [email protected].