WWD: UN spotlights youth’s role as today’s change-makers, tomorrow’s custodians

With the fate of the world’s wildlife soon to be in the hands of the next generation, the United Nations (UN) observed this year’s World Wildlife Day with a call to harness the power of young people’s voices in conservation efforts.

Held every March 3, the World Wildlife Day (WWD) is an opportunity to raise awareness on the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to people. And at the same time, remind everyone of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.

The 2017 edition which was celebrated across the world on Friday had the theme ‘Listen to the Young Voices,’ providing a new approach of equipping the youth to tackle conservation issues. It was also an opportunity for youths to engage with one another and together forge an inspired path to a better world.

“Poaching and illegal trafficking pose a significant threat to wildlife, especially some of the world’s most iconic and endangered species.

“Strict enforcement of laws is important, but so too is awareness,” UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said in his message on Friday, while appealing to young people to protect their inheritance by becoming informed and acting to protect wild animals and plants from the threat of extinction.

In her message, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), stressed that young people have a special role to play as change-makers and future custodians.

“We must listen to them and nurture their engagement, to craft new forms of action to conserve and protect wildlife on the basis of solidarity,” she said.

The UN General Assembly on December 20, 2013, decided to proclaim March 3 as the World Wildlife Day; the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973, which plays an important role in ensuring that international trade does not threaten the species’ survival.

“Given the current rate of poaching and smuggling, will future generations one day speak of elephants, rhinoceros and many other endangered species as we speak of mammoths? We must not and will not allow this to happen.

“Our generation has not yet succeeded in securing the future of many wild animals and plants. Meeting this challenge will now be shared with the next generation,” CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, said.

Wildlife has an intrinsic value and contributes to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of sustainable development and human well-being. It is therefore important every individual play a positive role in helping to curb illegal wildlife trade.

Last year, the UN launched the Wild for Life campaign, which asked people to make wildlife crime personal. Since its launch, it has engaged 35 celebrity champions, reached over one billion people, generated 4.5 million social media engagement and 12,000 pledges of action.

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