The Need for Responsibility and Participation: Young Environmentalists from Northeast Asia


Youth has a lot to contribute in the response to the environmental challenges which we all face today and can make a difference toward a brighter and safer future for the world. There is a strong indication that in order to involve youth to be responsible managers of the planet they deserve every encouragement to start working to save the planet. Young people are a major force for a better world and hence they should be considered social partners in environmental preservation issues. Youth can contribute in a sustainable manner not only to the development of their own country and but also of their region and the world.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) strongly supports the involvement of young people in environmental activities. In 2003, the UNEP adopted a long-term strategy, entitled the “Tunza Youth Strategy,” on youth engagement in environmental activities, as part of the UNEP’s work to “foster a generation of environmentally-conscious citizens who will better influence decision-making processes and act responsibly to create a sustainable world.” In the Asia-Pacific region, where more than half of the world’s young people live, the UNEP has supported the establishment and operation of five sub-regional youth environment networks covering South Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Pacific. Each sub-regional youth network promotes, enhances and supports youth participation in environmental activities, broadening the participatory process for sustainable development with the inclusion of youth. It also inculcates environmental awareness and responsible behavior amongst youth, and promotes a strong sense of networking as future leaders.

The Tunza-North East Asia Youth Environment Network (NEAYEN) was launched in August 2005 with support from the UNEP-Bayer partnership. NEAYEN has provided youth in Northeast Asia with a forum for discussing environmental issues and forming effective partnerships in promoting the environment in sustainable development. The annual NEAYEN conference is an essential networking and skills-building event and is important for the growth of the network. The first NEAYEN conference was held in Seoul, the ROK, and the following two conferences were held in Shanghai in 2006 and in Tokyo in 2007, respectively. The fourth conference will be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in July 2008. Every year more than 50 young people from Northeast Asian countries have met to learn about key environmental issues such as sandstorms and desertification, and climate change, and discuss ways to overcome those threats. These young people, aged 15 to 24, were all involved in environmental activities in four countries—China, Japan, the ROK and Mongolia—and shared their activities at the national, sub-regional and international levels. In addition they discussed how they can strengthen the youth network to take on those environmental problems and declared that every person should take responsibility and act now. The conference promotes the building of the skills of young people to share their experience and environmental activities from their four countries, and has developed a sub-regional voice and youth-led projects.