Story | 26 Jun, 2024

IUCN launches first-ever Youth Advisory Committee

Youth voices from around the world come together to guide IUCN’s programme, policies, and processes

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April 12, 2024 marked the historic official launch of IUCN’s Youth Advisory Committee, or YAC. After an extensive recruitment and selection process in 2023, the selected YAC representatives came together for an inaugural virtual meeting, joined by IUCN Director General Dr Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) Chair Sean Southey, IUCN Head of Human Rights and Conservation Team Mayte Gonzalez  to mark the momentous moment of lift-off for the YAC. 

The virtual room that day was abuzz with diverse and dynamic young people (aged 18-35) from around the world, a wellspring of expertise ready and able to infuse youth perspectives and priorities into the Union’s conservation actions, governance structures, and policy initiatives. The 17 YAC members represent the collective expertise of IUCN’s Commissions, Members, Indigenous Peoples Organizations, and Secretariat. Representatives speak nearly 20 languages between them, and come from 11 countries, including Mali, the United Arab Emirates, Panama, France, Ukraine, China, Kenya, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, and more. 

 “The active participation of young people is essential to achieving sustainable development and to reaching inclusive and just societies. IUCN is committed to bringing youth into conservation in an effective, respectful, and optimistic way. I am proud and inspired that we walk the talk, with around 30% of our staff composed of young professionals under 35 years old.” - IUCN Director General Dr Grethel Aguilar

YAC Co-Chair Diana Garlytska, an environmental economist by training who has been teaching Sustainable Business Development, Eco-tourism and Sustainable Fashion among other courses at the University level and consulting in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, has been at the forefront of the effort to bring the YAC into fruition since she joined the CEC Steering Committee in 2018 as Co-Chair for Youth and Intergenerational Partnerships and Regional Vice Chair for Europe. 

“Through my various roles in academia, youth organizations and constituencies I got to meet many talented young people working on nature conservation topics across the globe. The energy, enthusiasm and commitment of fellow young experts have always inspired me - we can bring so much to the table. In fact, I firmly believe that the IUCN Youth Advisory Committee will turn a new page in the history of the Union. With youth on board our joint effort will be bolder, optimistic and energetic. Let’s collaborate!” - YAC Co-Chair Diana Garlytska

Diana is also an Advisor for CoalitionWILD, has served as a Youth Task Force member for Stockholm+50 and a Regional Facilitator for Europe at UN MGCY Sustainable Consumption and Production Youth Platform Coordination Team, and co-authored the Outcome Statement of IUCN’s 2021 Global Youth Summit.

The launch of the YAC was preceded by various significant Union-wide efforts aimed at youth empowerment, meaningful engagement and leadership. Recognizing the importance of better integrating youth into the IUCN, the Youth Strategy for 2022-2030 put forth strategies and directions for meaningful engagement of youth in IUCN’s policies, processes and programmes. The design and launch of a Youth Advisory Committee was one of the priorities established in that Strategy, and IUCN is proud to bring this new Committee to fruition. 

The YAC supports the implementation of the IUCN Youth Strategy across the Union, by:

  • Promoting the IUCN Youth Strategy across all parts of the Union to support and synergise existing efforts, and catalyse new ones to achieve the intended outcomes of the Strategy;
  • Measuring and communicating outcomes from the Youth Strategy, according to the 2030 Action Framework;
  • Enhancing resourcing and capacity across the Union to ensure delivery of the Youth strategy outcomes through effective advocacy. 

IUCN has long championed the voice of young people. In 1956, the Union established and supported the International Youth Federation for Environmental Studies and Conservation, which united youth-led environmental organisations worldwide until the 1990s. During that period, and through the present day, IUCN has led youth-focused activities through its Programmes as well as Resolutions from multiple IUCN Congresses and events. The IUCN Youth Strategy and the emerging priorities of the YAC will build on decades of policy that continue to motivate IUCN Members, Commissions and the Secretariat to champion young people.

In the near term, the YAC’s working groups (Communications & Outreach, Legal, and Partnerships & Fundraising) are busy laying the framework for the Committee, building a Work Plan, and cultivating partnerships and supporters.

Connect with the YAC Group on IUCN Engage