Voices of future generations need to be heard

The voices of young scientists must be heard within science-based ministries and they must be involved in decision making.

This was the message from the youngest participant at the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science workshop for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 at the Pacific Community (S.P.C.) headquarters in Noumea, New Caledonia last week.

Tyler-Rae Chung represented the Pacific Youth Council (P.Y.C.), a regional non-governmental organisation based in Fiji that acts as an umbrella body for national youth councils across the Pacific region. 

The YPC was established in 1996 in response to a call from national youth councils for a regional body to coordinate the needs and voices of youth. It envisions empowering young people to become active citizens and leaders.

“I envision a science-based ministry where policy makers can be better informed on development through science to achieve sustainable development goals, monitoring program and implementation with a strong emphasis of the inclusion of the young scientists of today and the future," Ms. Chung said. 

“It’s important because decisions and outcomes made today will set the foundation for the next generation leaders."

The 25-year-old Fijian said she was disappointed that a video shown to the conference of young ocean scientists did not capture an important aspect of indigenous knowledge and her experience as part of the Uto Ni Yalo Trust, on a traditional voyaging vessel. 

That example has taught her more respect and value of the ocean, she said. 

“When looking at the outcomes of the United Nations Ocean Decade, it’s important to understand indigenous knowledge," she said. 

“In the revised road map for the Ocean Decade it talks a lot about why the decade is needed and an aspect of it is to encourage science [and] public and policy makers to think beyond businesses and a just blue economy but to aspire for real change.

“I believe real change starts with the education system and building their capacity, from grass root levels of indigenous knowledge to scientific knowledge and the policy mechanisms that are already set in place".

Ms. Chung recommended the establishment of a mentoring and monitoring program, to ensure a space for young voices to come through.

“It should be clear that the responsibility for this rests with both young people as well as educators and policy makers," she said. 

"With that being said, while young people’s voices need to be included, it is not without responsibility. 

“It will be a platform where young scientists are mentored and nurtured to understand policy mechanisms already set in place; appreciate history, indigenous knowledge such as traditional navigation and wisdom passed down and have a good background in terms of monitoring stats [which the University of the South Pacific has already develop young scientist to some extent].

“It will take commitment and time but the outcomes of this program, if implemented successfully, are long term new growth leadership to take ownership as young scientists to feed into my vision of a science-based ministry.”

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