Implications of #COVID19 on Nature: #NewDealForNature and People [TweetChat with GYBN]

In case you missed it, we were privileged to host Thomas McAuley-Biasi of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) to a live chat session on Twitter, on Friday, 20th November 2020. We focused on the role of the youth in green and just recovery post-covid19. Here’s the excerpt from the tweet chat. 

Q: GYBN is an international network of youth organisations & individuals with a goal to prevent biodiversity loss and preserve earth’s natural resources. What led to its formation & how does it achieve its goals?  

A: GYBN was officially formed in 2010 at COP10 (10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity), thanks to the coordination of the UN Biodiversity Secretariat & the GYBN Interim Steering Committee. The idea of creating GYBN, however, started before 2008, through the planning & work of passionate youths across various international events. Today, GYBN works to achieve its goal of protecting #biodiversity through youth empowerment/capacity building, advocacy, campaigning & international youth mobilization.  

Q: What are some of the milestones you have achieved with respect to membership, partnerships & supporting organisations, contributions to policies, dialogue & engagement, among other impacts & achievements?   

A: Over the past decade, we’ve hit quite a few milestones! To date, GYBN has 1.2 million members across 150 countries, 40 chapters, & 550-member organisations. We’ve also helped to support 340 youth leaders across 121 countries through capacity building workshops! Additionally, CBD in a Nutshell- our guidebook to the Convention of Bio-Diversity (CBD)- has been read ~3 million times!  Finally, we’ve organized 12 youth delegations to CBD meetings, awarding 190 travel scholarships, & delivered 75 interventions.  
Q: COVID-19, like Ebola and Lassa Fever has been found to be a zoonotic disease. Could you enlighten on the causes of zoonotic diseases particularly in regard to nature?  

A: Zoonotics tend to develop easier when animals are in close contact with humans & there is a lack of genetic diversity within the animal population. Through deforestation, we are pushing human and animal populations closer together, exposing both to novel pathogens. Smaller populations with lower genetic diversity allow for novel diseases to take over. As a result, the outside stresses of encroaching human populations facilitate the potential transfer of the disease from animals to humans.  

Q: Could you discuss some of GYBN and its members’ responses to the COVID19 pandemic?  

A: Seeing the impacts of COVID19 is very scary. We all have a right to a safe, clean, and healthy environment now & tomorrow. Thus, youth want governments to build back better through necessary fundamental changes to our outdated social & economic systems, and this is the time! With the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement calling for racial & gender justice, the biodiversity & climate movements calling for transformative change, & the pandemic exposing our unsustainable systems, the need for change is blatant. 

Q: Could you provide some insights on the implications of COVID19 for nature conservation, biodiversity and human livelihood in various dimensions for developing countries particularly in Africa?  

A: COVID19 has exposed the vulnerability of many conservation models in Africa. Some of its impacts include reduced tourism revenue from visitors to protected areas & loss of funding. Due to these and other impacts, many conservation sites have had to reduce their operations & limit staff, among other radical measures. It’s become increasingly important for them to explore new frameworks that ensure a sustainable balance between wildlife protection & local economies, especially for communities living near protected areas.  
Q: What are your thoughts about the emergence of COVID19 and what should be done with reference to the New Deal for Nature and People to reduce the risks of the emergence of zoonotic diseases, especially in Africa?  

A: Even though COVID19 surprised us all, it was avoidable, considering the many warning signs that nature gave us over the years. Since COVID19 is believed to be a zoonotic disease, the New Deal for Nature and People should prioritize a shift to sustainable consumption & production patterns. We have to deeply assess how our agricultural systems, wildlife trade, & exploitation of natural resources is done & commit to achievable targets backed by policy. Countries should eliminate all harmful subsidies.   

QThe United Nations has called for governments to Build Back Better by developing green and just recovery post COVID19. Given the huge economic loss to the COVID19 pandemic, why should African governments not focus on economic recovery alone?  

A: By focusing only on the economy, we are recreating the broken systems that allowed COVID19 to proliferate as it has. COVID19 is a symptom of the current social & economic structures in place, which allowed for the collapse of global biodiversity. By focusing solely on economic recovery, we’re only addressing the symptom. Instead, we have to address the root causes. If we don’t want to invite another global pandemic, our social & economic structures need fundamental changes. 
Q: What are the practical strategies, measures and initiatives that governments should consider towards ensuring a green and just recovery?   

A: Governments should abandon unjust economies based on land-use change & unsustainable food production, which are some of the root causes of zoonosis emergence & biodiversity loss. They must also integrate the needs of those most affected into the recovery processes. Besides, Indigenous Peoples & Local Communities around the world have been using their ancestral knowledge to fight COVID19. These traditional health systems must be respected, strengthened, & prioritized in national health agendas. 

Q: In addition to the governments, are there other stakeholders who could complement the roles of the governments in pursuits of a green and just recovery? Could you highlight what they could do?  

A: Indigenous Peoples, Women, & Youth are already contributing significantly to building a better world, & can give meaningful insights to inform & ensure a green & just recovery. To truly Build Back Better, governments should ensure their full & effective participation. The finance sector should also divest from portfolios harmful to biodiversity & prioritize strong social & environmental safeguards. A low carbon, fair, biodiversity-friendly global economy is possible with concerted efforts from all sectors.  
Q: What are the roles youths have in ensuring a green and just recovery post COVID19 and the New Deal for Nature and People? What are they doing for nature conservation and biodiversity in Africa especially with reference to the pandemic?  

A: African youth have realized that they will shoulder much of the long-term effects of COVID19, & are taking strategic action as a result. Good examples include youth dialogues on one health & biodiversity, campaigns on illegal wildlife trade, North-South & South-South collaborations, & policy briefs on meaningful youth engagement on the path to recovery. Young Africans have also been at the forefront of the pandemic response, through the development of mobile applications that help in contact-tracing, social distancing, & Health Center mapping. Youth-led conservation organizations such as GYBN Kenya have adopted new measures & aligned with the “new normal” to ensure continued youth engagement in biodiversity protection.  

Q: We have participated in the 2020 Biodiversity Week. What are the key messages of the 2020 edition of the week?  

A: The key messages from Biodiversity Week 2020 were the need to reflect transformative change & intergenerational equity in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, & and to Build Back Better with a green COVID19 recovery plan.  

It was, indeed a highly educative and insightful session, and we hope that you found the responses useful, like we did.  

Looking forward to other collaborations with the Global Youth Diversity Network in future, and to the next tweet chat in the Africa4Nature Health Initiative series!  

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