The IWT London 2018 conference from a young conservationists perspective.
By Sofia Venturini,
A lot of attention has been focused around the London event on the subject of the illegal wildlife trade which took place this October at Battersea Park. It is fair to say that the extent of this event has reached unprecedented levels. Governments, international NGOs, militaries, politicians, researchers, celebrities and media were all gathered together to continue the illegal wildlife trade conference saga. The threat that endangered species are facing is not only a problem for scientists but for everyone. Their depletion from nature does not only cause species extinction, but it also affects economies and hinders countries development (also pointed out by the Duke of Cambridge during the opening ceremony).
The conference had a very tight schedule (I would think that adding an additional day might be helpful to anyone who wishes to have the chance to follow all the panels!) and many topics were touched upon during the two days. It was very exciting witnessing global leaders and experts pledges to intensify the ongoing and future actions in addition to the all the work done thus far (despite all the setbacks). The message conveyed was very clear: the illicit trade in wildlife is a crime and, therefore, needs to be treated as such.
It was my first time attending an event of such magnitude and I had the privilege to participate as a delegate for Youth for Wildlife Conservation (Y4WC). The experience has been an invaluable one. I had the chance to meet face-to-face and connect with all the inspiring and charismatic people that brought me towards working to protect endangered species, from Ian Douglas Hamilton to rangers working in anti-poaching units in Africa, and important women such as Helen Clark. Being part of a delegation of people my same age made me feel understood and more empowered to act as a young aspiring conservationist. You never completely realise how many young people are actually working to save wildlife until you see them all in one room. During the conference, it was clearly perceivable that the global community is finally coming to terms with the importance of having a new well-trained and motivated generation to preserve wildlife and the natural environment.
Despite the fast pace of the conference, Y4WC managed to put together an impressive panel of five delegates who confidently put up to all the questions raised by the audience. The panellists were able to swiftly touch upon many of the most pressing issues facing conservationists today. Important topics were discussed; the importance of financial incentives to young people, the fundamental role of governmental and non-governmental organisations in promoting youth optimism and last but not least the importance of the interdisciplinarity of the subject. I was particularly satisfied to hear raised the importance of creating in-country capacity among young conservationists as I felt that the aspect of engaging locals was surprisingly undervalued by the majority of the speakers.
Admittedly, I was very surprised to see the receptiveness of the other stakeholders and delegates to Y4WC objectives. As a proof of the organisation's immediate impact on people, already during the second day, the importance of youth in conservation was mentioned numerous times by various other panellists.
As an organisation, Y4WC has pledged to promote conservation and tackle illegal wildlife trade by empowering youth, promoting their leadership skills and advocate decision-making. Given the success obtained from this conference, I expect great things from them in the future.
In regard to my hopes towards future IWT conferences, I was disappointed in only hearing about the ivory trade, whilst I believe that the illicit trade in other endangered species, including plants, should also be considered. Additionally, I would love to see more participation from local communities from all over the world and hear their pledges, as at the end of the day we need to put aside the colonialist attitude and let locals take steps. Finally, I hope that a bigger crowd of young people will be attending the next IWT conference, as we represent the only possibility to conserve species in the future.