Mobilizing young people to combat desertification and drought - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
23 June 2022

Beirut time

Expert Group Meeting

Mobilizing young people to combat desertification and drought

Winners DDD 2022 Challenge
  • UN House, Beirut, Lebanon

ESCWA is organizing an expert group meeting to raise the awareness of young people in the Arab region on the impact of desertification and drought on their lives and future, and to highlight the roles they can play in tackling these challenges. The meeting discusses the processes needed to mobilize young people and foster their engagement in addressing desertification and drought at regional, national and subnational levels. The meeting is being led by experienced stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia and civil society. Together with experts, young activists and entrepreneurs are sharing their insights and success stories. Networking between young people and experts is encouraged throughout the day.

A session of the meeting is dedicated to the 2022 Desertification and Drought Day (DDD), which falls annually on 17 June. The theme of this year’s DDD is “Rising up from drought together”. The event features the winners of a youth challenge on combating desertification and drought, which invited them to produce videos demonstrating solutions to desertification and drought in the Arab region. More information on this challenge and the shortlisted videos can be found through this link.

You can access the pictures of the event on this link

Outcome document

Some of the recommendations and suggestions that were proposed during the meeting:

  • Prepare studies on the numbers and percentages of young people involved in environmental work to determine the degree of participation and build policies supported by data
  • Raise environmental awareness among Arab youth through increasing youth awareness campaigns in Arab countries
  • Include topics related to combating desertification and drought in school curricula, and create university courses and specializations in this field, with a focus on the economic feasibility of environmental work
  • Motivate young people to volunteer for environmental work and help them to invest in small and micro projects in the green economy.
  • Involve youth in implementing environmental projects and national development agendas through internal training programs in government institutions working in the environmental field.
  • Make the microcredit a collective credit, to become more effective and enable young people to cooperate with each other and exchange experiences.
  • Benefit from the capabilities of young people in using information technology and develop mechanisms for their participation in modelling and producing digital tools to adapt to climate change.
  • Benefit from support of universities, electronic platforms, and social networks as links between environmental institutions and youth, in order to disseminate information and circulate it among the largest number of young people and attract their involvement in environmental work.
  • Establish a regional platform linking Arab research centres and universities to network young researchers, discuss challenges, develop scientific solutions related to combating desertification and drought, and share it with the Committee on Science and Technology (CST).
  • Rehabilitate the active youth in the field of combating desertification and drought and to develop their negotiating and leadership skills in order to convey the voice of youth in the Arab region, in order to influence their peers in their societies and bring about the desired change by Participate actively and not in the regional and international environment conferences
  • Create an enabling environment and a safe space for the participation of university students, while motivating them morally and financially to increase their ability and desire to participate, considering the many pressures they are experiencing, financial, academic, and other social restrictions
  • Give importance to the participation of girls, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the youth most affected by desertification and drought in planning environmental policies and implementing control and adaptation projects

During this session, the speakers discussed the state of desertification and drought in the Arab region and the importance of Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is directly concerned with the issue of desertification and its relationship with the rest of the SDGs. Human factors that increase the severity of desertification and drought were also discussed, such as mismanagement of natural resources (soil and water), uncontrolled tourism, migration of farmers to the city and uncontrolled industrial activities.

The session focused on the impact of desertification and drought on young people and how for example the salinity and pollution of the soil, deprives families who depend on agriculture from their main source of income, which in turns affects the food security status of young people, their health, and their education opportunities.

Finally, the session discussed the urge to reform the prevailing concepts and beliefs that limit the participation of young women and the need to highlight the benefits of engaging them in environmental work.

The session began with a presentation of the King Hamad Award for Empowering Youth to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which gives young entrepreneurs wishing to implement projects that combat desertification and drought, an opportunity to win and disseminate their projects, experiences and achievements.

The session also touched on the role of academia in engaging young people in addressing desertification and drought, and the role of universities and their students in making change in society and the environment.

The session discussed the role of young people in activating the recommendations of the Stockholm COP 50+, and the importance of their participation in decision-making on climate change and in local and regional consultations on activities to combat desertification and drought, as they are the main stakeholders in finding solutions.

The session reviewed some experiences from the Arab region regarding projects and activities to combat desertification and drought. Including: (A) the experience of integrating young people in the activities of the Arab Network for Environment and Development “Raed” and training them to participate in international conferences; (B) the experience of integrating young people into the activities of water innovation laboratories to enable them to combat desertification and drought, as it worked in the project for greening the edges of the Beirut River; (C) the experience of communicating information to youth and engaging them in environmental awareness projects through the “Law ta3ref” campaign led by the Arab Society for the Protection of Nature; (D) and the experience of enhancing the role of youth in protecting green areas and public spaces within the experience of Horsh Beirut, led by the “Nahnou” association.

During this session, mechanisms for developing policies to combat desertification and drought were discussed; how they are made and how young people are included in their design and implementation. Representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Youth and Sports, from different Arab countries, participated in this session, and spoke about their experiences in activating the role of youth in designing and implementing sustainable environmental policies and the importance of creating joint programs between ministries, universities and schools to encourage young people’s engagement in these policies.

The main part of this session included a discussion between experts and young people, where some ideas and questions were raised from the attendees, who expressed their interest in participating in the programs, projects and competitions that were discussed during the panel.

During the fourth and final session, the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought for the year 2022 was celebrated, as this day usually falls on the 17th of June of each year. The theme for this year is "Rising from Drought Together".

The session also included an overview of the ESCWA Youth Challenge on combating desertification and drought in the Arab region, which is organized annually by ESCWA and regional partners, namely the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), the Arab Center for Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD), and the United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology (UN OICT).

In the end, the video prepared by the winners of this competition was displayed and the winners presented a short speech to the audience as the meeting concluded with the distribution of certificates and the celebration of the winners.

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