The global community celebrated International Youth Day on August 12, which serves as a reminder of the vital role of the Asean youth in building a better tomorrow.

In the region, the youth comprise one-third of the total population, with over 213 million people aged between 15 to 34 years old.

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) recognizes the pivotal role of the youth in effecting transformative change.

With this in mind, the center is spearheading the Young Asean Storytellers (YAS) program, where 20 creative young Asean citizens showcased their skills and talents in storytelling through innovative forms while shedding light on the importance of the innate connection between Asean’s people and biodiversity, ACB said.

“I’ve also been realizing just the sheer power that young people have in mobilizing, in gathering, [and] in influencing people toward a certain cause,” said Mika Tan, coordinator of the YAS program.

Tan also shared that the youth are a vital part of the solution in biodiversity conservation and have a unique quality of using technology to break barriers and inspire and connect with communities.

The 20 outstanding YAS are Jang Elroy Anak Ramantan from Brunei Darussalam; Seng Roatha from Cambodia; Abex, Uki Wardoyo and Ameliya Rosita Santoso from Indonesia; SomVang Norlintha and Souksavanh Phommahaxai from Lao PDR.

Also among YAS are Ahmad Amir Isqandar Bin Mohd Zawawi, Ler Wei Rong and Lavinya Kalai Chelvan from Malaysia; Mg Htet from Myanmar; Celine Murillo, Althea Jane Roa and Brikko Iyanev Martillo Dumas from the Philippines; Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips and Elliot James Ong from Singapore; Nanticha Ocharoenchai and Siramon Tansiri from Thailand; and Phan Quoc Dung and Vu Hong Trang from Viet Nam.

These young creatives have reached a broad audience through their platforms online by lending their voices to environmental advocacies—whether utilizing watercolour to create compelling stories about female scrap metal dealers, holding impressive art exhibits, or being acclaimed internationally as remarkable photographers.

Their stories offered fresh perspectives through their chosen mediums—touching on topics, such as biodiversity conservation strategies to address challenges in their respective countries, and the cultural traditions of people living around Asean Heritage Parks.

“The youth of today are at the forefront of advocating for nature. Not only are they skilled, but they also hold so much influence with the stories they can tell,” said Earl Paulo Diaz, the ACB’s head of Communication and Public Affairs.

Diaz also pointed out that the YAS program taps into the significant potential of the youth to contribute to the overall goal of achieving a world where society benefits equitably and lives harmoniously with nature, in line with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

“These youth’s voices on biodiversity conservation and protection are relevant now more than ever as they will help in paving the way for a better, more sustainable future for generations to come,” he added.

The stories, which will be curated in an online virtual exhibit in October at the Seventh Asean Heritage Parks Conference in Indonesia, aim to inspire and mobilise their audience, regardless of age, to participate in actions towards promoting biodiversity conservation in the region, ACB said.

Just as this year’s celebration of the youth holds the theme, “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages,” the Asean aims to contribute to a vision of a world where no one is left behind, be it people or nature, as told by the region’s creative youth.

The YAS program is supported by the European Union, through the Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in Asean Project; and the Asean-Germany Cooperation in Biodiversity through the Second Phase of the Institutional Strengthening of the Biodiversity Sector in the Asean Project and the Small Grants Programme.