Global Youth Initiative for Combating Desertification: The starting point

8 – 10 September 2017

Youth forum

The first-ever UNCCD Youth Forum with the theme “Land, Youth and Sustainability” during the recent 13th session Conference of Parties to UNCCD, in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. On 8 September 2017, the Forum, which was attended by nearly 200 participants from 25 countries around the world, was inaugurated by guests of honour: Mr Zhang Yongli (Vice Administrator of State Forestry of Administration), Ms Monique Barbut (the Executive Secretary of UNCCD Secretariat), Mr. Xu Xiao (Person in-Charge of All China Youth Federation), and Mr. Jiři Hlaváček (Chief Environmental Governance and Convention Branch, Law Division of UN Environment). During the opening ceremony, the significant role of young people in combating desertification was acknowledged and concurred by all guests of honor. The participants were also urged to harness the relevant knowledge, science and technology and to be bold and innovative in their desertification-combating endeavors.  

Youth forum

The interactive dialogue between panelists and participants, as well as exchange of innovative ideas and success stories have also generated positive feedback from participants. In addition, the forum adopted the youth declaration on “Global Youth Initiative for Combating Desertification.” The declaration was presented by Yang Liu on 11 September 2017 at the High Level Segment Opening Session and was accepted by the parties to be included as part of COP13 decisions. 

Andrew Lesa, who represented the Youth Forum participants, also presented the ‘Youth opinion on land and climate” at the Civil Society Organizations’ Open Dialogue held on 9 September 2017. Mr. Lesa emphasized that consultations with youth should be inclusive and not limited to academia or young professionals but extended to young farmers and entrepreneurs, indigenous and vulnerable groups, such as young people with disabilities. He called for “ruralization” intervention that would bring young job seekers back to rural communities and give them an opportunity address impacts of climate change and land degradation on the ground. 

Youth forum


The forum ended with the youth field trip to the Hobq Desert, which is an agro-ecotourism & technology park that showcases the success of rehabilitation and restoration programs.  As Confucius said: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” Restoring limited land resources is not impossible: where there is a will, there is always a way.  

Youth forum


In the words of the Youth Forum participants:

“The world never ever in the past had the advantage of having highest count of youth population. The presentations from my fellow youth representatives have boosted up my confidence to the next level”

– Rakesh Leveka, India

“Young people can reverse the depletion of natural resources and the disposal of waste. Solution is from us, we the youth we can make it happen, we do not need money, we just need courage to meet all the challenges, as we have to raise the voice for our future”

– Grace Ineza, Rwanda

“This forum allowed to show our engagement, to forge relations and a network and I strongly hope that it has been a starting point of a real long-term initiative of Youth involvement”

– Magali Pausin, France


– Zhangbo, China

“Quisiera destacar y hacer una llamada a todos los jóvenes que aún no se han unido al movimiento global de lucha frente al cambio climático, la degradación y desertificación de los suelos o del cuidado mundial del agua, recordarles que como generación tenemos una ardua y valiosa tarea de informarnos, replicar nuestros conocimientos, poner acción y conciencia en todos nuestros actos”

– Lorena Terrazas, Bolivia


– Zhu Jianfeng, China

"La conférence des parties à travers le sommet des jeunes a permis aux 22 représentant d’échanger sur les solutions et réalités les concernant eux même"

 –  Marie Jeanne Diouf, Senegal