Samoa’s youth honoured with international wetlands prize

In May this year, Samoa’s Youth in Climate Action Network (Y.C.A.N.) learned they had won a Ramsar Wetland Conservation award of US$10,000 (T$26,609).

President Samantha Kwan, still very much taken aback by the win, travelled to Dubai yesterday to accept the prize.

The group has been hard at work since 2015 replanting and restoring mangroves and rehabilitating coral reefs on Samoa’s borders.

“Most of our members live on the coastline,” Ms. Kwan said.

“They are at the forefront of the changes happening because of climate change and they can link it to what they see reporting in the media, and see a direct relationship to the action we are taking.”

With the Ramsar prize, the group will reach more youth to enable greater action against an unliveable planet.

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More funding means more training and capacity building, not only for youth to know how to restore mangroves or plant more trees, but understand why, and how to pass on that information on to their communities, Ms. Kwan said.

The Ramsar Conservation is an award for Young Wetlands Champions. Ms. Kwan said it’s great to see youth in particular being honoured.

As a conservation officer at the Ministry of Resources and Natural Environment, Ms. Kwan said she used to see the voices of youth ignored in the conservation policy space or brought in as tokenistic gestures.

“But there has definitely been a huge shift since we started Y.C.A.N,” she said.

“We’re actually a partner to M.N.R.E. to implement the National Environment Sector Plan for 2017-2020 because they see the work we do on the ground.”

Y.C.A.N. is a three-year old youth group working on defending Samoa’s coastal areas from pollution, reef degradation, species loss and more.

The Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards were established in 1996 to recognise and work to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

Ramsar is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements and was negotiated through the 1960’s. It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

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