Living Maps of Colombia: Giving youth a voice in global environmental decision making

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the links between human health and ecological health. As governments around the world prioritise strategies to promote recovery from the pandemic, we must come together multilaterally to prevent environmental degradation and promote ecological growth.

2021 is a super year for nature with two global, environmental governance events almost coinciding; the 15th United Nations Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to be held in October in China and the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be held in November in the United Kingdom. We must ensure that our representatives at these meetings feel supported to end business as usual and deliver a new future for us, where our economic productivity promotes and rewards sustainability not exploitation.

Who better to tell the policy makers than the next generation who will inherit the difficulties and opportunities that current generations are creating? GROW Colombia is helping children to articulate their connection to the environment, demonstrate the value they place on having access to nature, understand their role and the role of others as change agents in transforming the environment for better or worse. Our Living Maps of Colombia initiative will help young people to amplify their voices to Governments and convey the the heat of expectation and accountability both in the run up to these international summits and during those crucial hours of negotiation.

We are creating the Living Maps of Colombia by taking part in the UK Embassy´s “Humming for Change” educational campaign and in collaboration with Fundación Cerros de Bogotá, United Way Colombia, OpEPA, and the UK’s Eden Project. Children across Colombia have the opportunity to create their own map to show the species, habitats and ecosystems that are important to them and why they want them to be conserved for future generations. These Living Maps will help children to have a voice, to turn their passion for nature into a political mandate for decision makers.

The pandemic is a wake-up call to governments across the world. It has reminded us of the fragility of life and the importance of working together and of including a plurality of voices in environmental decision making to provide a healthy and prosperous future for the next generation.

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