2015 Global Landscapes Forum: Salina Abraham – Closing Keynote

Head of International Processes at IFSA, Salina Abraham, speaks on behalf of the Forum organizers at the high-level closing plenary session from the second day of the Global Landscapes Forum 2015, in Paris, France alongside COP21.

The closing ceremony takes a closer look at some of the initiatives that emerged through the Forum and offers a space for tracking progress as well as outlining next steps.

Salina Abraham represents the GLF Youth group to share with participants what the youth envision for the future, what young people have accomplished and what young people have to offer for sustainable landscapes.

Sunday, 6 December 2015
Global Landscapes Forum, Paris, France
#GLFCOP21 #ThinkLandscape


My name is Salina Abraham. I’m Eritrean by heritage, I’m Dutch by birth and I’m American by schooling. So, I hope that my thoughts today are reflective on, or give some insight into, the youth perspective.

I’m passionate about landscapes because, through this approach, we choose to transcend borders. I’m coming to speak to you on behalf of the youth – to share with you what we envision for the future, what we’ve accomplished and what we have to offer.

I was lucky enough to be participating in the Youth in Landscapes initiative here at the GLF this year. This initiative is organized by: IFSA, the International Forestry Students Association, YPARD, the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development, and GAEA, the Global AgroEcology Alliance. Which together represents over 15,000 young people who are working and studying in landscapes.

This past week I’ve been able to spend four days in workshops with 50 incredible young people. And they have shared with me their challenges in working with their landscapes. And I’ve been inspired by them, I’ve been encouraged by them, and we’ve really supported each other in the work that we’ve been doing here.

Through the workshops, we were able to practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable, seeking consensus even when it seemed impossible, and learning skills that helped us to meaningfully engage at the GLF. So, throughout this week we worked in teams to develop solutions to five real-world land-use challenges. We were mentored by UNEP, Wageningen University, Livelihoods Venture, the CGIAR research program on Land, Water and Ecosystems, as well as CIFOR.

And I want to share some of these solutions with you. One group came up with an exchange program between smallholder farmers that empowers them to form cooperatives and share resources, such as storage facilities and centralized distribution centers. Another designed a self-assessment tool where you can enter your current knowledge and skills and it will generate a customized curriculum to fill the gaps in your landscape knowledge. Other teams want to prototype various mapping and data collection tools to tackle challenges around REDD+ social safeguards, landscape restoration and measuring progress towards SDGs.

To us, this wasn’t just an exercise. It wasn’t just a game. These could be real-world solutions to real-world challenges. So, I want to ask from you two things: the first is to concretely integrate youth into the work that you do and the solutions we have to offer into your organizations; the second is to support our Youth in Landscapes initiative so that we can continue to grow and enable youth, so that we can become the leaders that we will have to be in the world. Many of us struggled to get here and in order to have a truly inclusive representation of youth around the world we will need your support.

I’m asking you to consider youth like you consider regional diversity. Consider youth like we consider race and ethnicity. Consider youth like you consider gender. And I’m asking you to value youth in the same way we are now valuing interdisciplinarity. We cannot make the critical progress that we truly need without an inclusive and intergenerational effort.

To finish up, I would like everyone under 30 who is in this room to stand. You could stay standing. These here are not just the people who will be alive and working in 2050 and 2055. These people are also here right now. We’re bringing our ideas, our energy, our enthusiasm and our hope. And what we’re just asking from you is to talk to us; to ask us what we’re passionate about; ask us what challenges we’re facing in our current landscapes. Let’s continue to generate these discussions so we can make a truly collective step forward.

So, we already know that we need you. We need your wisdom, your guidance, your investment. But I’m here to tell you – you may not know it – but you also need us too. Thank you.