St. Peter-Ording, Germany
The Trilateral Youth Conference brought together young adults who are already involved with or are enthusiastic about the Wadden Sea World Heritage. It encouraged youth ownership by raising awareness, sharing insights on the existing involvement of young adults and elaborating on their issues of interest and visions for working together. The event was organised by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) on behalf of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC) and sponsored by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV). During a follow-up process coordinated by CWSS, the participants refined their ideas, communicated achievements, and prepared their visions. These youth perspectives were presented by representatives at the 14th Trilateral Governmental Conference.
Simone Prestes Dürrnagel, Project Coordinator
Image: Trilateral Wadden Youth Logo by Pascal Ertzinger.
Trilateral Youth Conference Outcomes by Trilateral Wadden Youth
Common areas of interest
During the conference we talked and shared our thoughts, ideas, visions, and concerns. Out of these conversations we distilled some topics that we have shared passion and interest for. These topics are: conservation of the Wadden Sea, communication and education, transformation, sustainable economic practices, and youth involvement.
Regarding conservation of the Wadden Sea we talked about wanting to revisit the idea and implications of the part humanity plays in the region. We agreed that we want to work towards a future where humanity views itself as part of the ecosystem of the Wadden Sea and not as a superior actor.
On the topic of communication and education in the Wadden Sea we agreed that communication is key in fostering large-scale engagement in the conservation of the Wadden Sea as well as in facilitating participatory governance processes. And that education has a critical role to play towards engagement, nature stewardship and participatory governance.
When talking about transformation we shared our thoughts on seeing change and as an opportunity to grow our resilience and not consider it as a last resort. And that embracing this transformation also implies accepting changes in the Wadden Sea’s ecosystem and working with these changes.
Looking at sustainable economic practices we talked about how we need to strengthen social structures in the region to promote circular economy, local production, sustainable fisheries, and sustainable tourism.
And finally, we all agreed on the importance of youth involvement. Sharing our thoughts on the significance of connecting and encouraging youth involvement in the three countries and on a trilateral level. Aiming towards representing youth perspectives and values in the management of the site and policymaking. Including but not limited to the earlier topics. Youth involvement, long term engagement and active participation therefore plays a central role in our vision.
Why youth involvement?
After the conference we continued our conversation on youth involvement, specifically in policymaking. How this is not only of importance to us, as youth, but also how the youth perspective is a very valuable addition to the process.
We see the main reason for representing youth perspectives and values in governance as the fact that we are the future, and the future is ours. This future is being shaped by current policymaking, often without youth involved in the process. Even though youth can add so much to the process.
We offer a new perspective and new energy, which can be key in decision making. Especially in the Wadden Sea with its complexity of policy layers where it’s easy to get stuck in the system once you’ve been involved in the area for a long time. Sometimes the solution is thinking outside the box, which comes natural to youth since we don’t have a box yet.
But we won’t pretend like it’s young people who are going to solve all the problems. Most value of involving youth lies in the following intergenerational conservations that are a dynamic mix of new perspectives, energy and motivation paired with knowledge and experience.
Plans for a Trilateral Youth Network
During the youth conference we had exciting talks about enhancing youth involvement through setting up a Trilateral Youth Network. After the conference we continued discussing these plans online meetings set up a goal and a plan for realising the network.
We see the network as consisting of two interlinked parts, both with their own function. We want to involve and connect, and we want to represent.
Through network activities and an online platform we want to involve and engage youth in the Wadden Sea, connect involved youth and function as a central hub for sharing knowledge and initiatives, as well as personal experiences.
We want to use this network to collect youth perspectives, values and visions to represent the voice of the Wadden Youth in policy.
Currently we are in the process of figuring out the organisational structure for the network. We have decided on having a core organising team and working groups tasked with a specific goal.