Zuayter’s recommendations to involve young people in efforts to combat desertification at the meeting of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia - ESCWA
Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) | Beirut 23 June 2022
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of APN, Eng. Razan Zuayter at the expert group meeting on ways to mobilize youth to combat desertification and drought, held in Beirut at the invitation of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia - ESCWA. In her speech, Zuayter said that at APN, we appreciate the great role that young people play in all aspects of life, especially our main issues, including combating desertification, but that this role cannot be separated from institutionalized partnership in the integrated community movement in that direction. She added that in our green movement in APN, whose achievements and impact we are proud of over the past twenty-one years, we did not deal with young people as a separate sector, but rather “almost spontaneously” young people were a partner, no less or more than all the components of diversity required to achieve the goals of sustainable development that we aspire to, including combating desertification.
The youth sector cannot completely fulfill its role and best utilize its energies without an institutionalized partnership with middle-aged and older generations, and without its component being available at all stages and not only as an implementer of strategies made by the elders (as happens in most organizations concerned with development affairs), but as a partner in setting priorities, strategies and implementation mechanisms, and with the same importance in the later stages, such as monitoring and accounting. The Chairman of the Board of Directors pointed to the integrated contribution of thousands of young people to planting trees.
One of the most important programs that youth contributed to establishing in APN is the “If Only You Knew” campaign in 2012, which targets university and school students, and aims to spread awareness of the environment and agriculture and their benefits, detailing the most important environmental challenges and issues in Jordan and the Arab world, with reference to the solutions sought by local communities and civil society organizations. The program also sought to build the capacity of young people to present lectures to their peers. This program has contributed to building knowledge and creating promising leaders.
To achieve this, Zuayter made recommendations to involve young people equally by linking the issue of combating desertification with the issues that young people are passionate about, such as the human rights, environmentalism and food sovereignty. She also linked the fight against desertification to an economic role for young people that enables them to build their future by enabling them to access natural resources such as land and water, to facilitate investment in cultivating the land and repairing degraded ones, supporting them financially and professionally in a flexible and institutionalized manner, and benefiting from them as a catalyst for preserving life on the land. She recommended facilitating access to information with the establishment of decentralized democracy, and support for grass-roots organizations concerned with afforestation, rural development and environmental protection, provided that one of the conditions of support is the presence of the youth component in the establishment and implementation phase. She pointed out to take advantage of the sectors that attract young people, such as music, art and sports, to raise awareness about the topic, as well as support and guide young people in scientific institutes to carry out research related to desertification.
Zuayter concluded by referring to APN, which is run by a young woman and her working group of young people. With the efforts of all, the association, in the “The Million Tree Campaign” in occupied Palestine, launched by APN in 2001, was able to enhance the sovereignty of the Palestinian people over their food and establish farmers on their lands and protect their orchards. This has been done by planting about 2.6 million trees in the entire occupied Palestinian lands, on an area of 131,996 dunums, for the benefit of 30,123 farmers, supporting 221,327 people. She also reviewed the "Green Caravan" program in Jordan, since its launch in 2003, in planting 151,534 trees, benefiting 9,057 farmers who are small farmers and support 46,391 individuals.
The APN team was able to plant these trees on an area of 3,697.5 dunums, through 338 activities, with a mission of 8,317 volunteers, they included thousands of young men and women. She indicated the expansion of APN in unifying the efforts of many Arab organizations and associations through the launch of the Arab Network for Food Sovereignty. The youth sector is an integral part of the constituent sectors of the network, which includes 35 organizations of farmers, shepherds, fishermen and women. Finally, she recommended holding a meeting of experts in combating desertification, as a matter of Arab integration, especially as the desert crosses borders.