Amongst the many notable leaders and ocean experts at the 7th Our Ocean Conference (OOC) held in the Republic of Palau from April 13th-14th were 49 young climate leaders. Recognizing that the connection to our ocean must be nurtured with each generation, the OOC committee realized the importance of having these young leaders directly contribute to the ocean dialogue, to hear their voices and pass on the knowledge to the future leaders of the planet, the youth.
This year, the conference integrated a series of educational community activities to empower young climate leaders to continue to seek tangible ocean solutions. Out of hundreds of youth applicants, the 7th Our Ocean Conference’s youth delegation consisted of a diverse group of 27 young international professionals and 22 Palauan youth representatives, ranging from ages 16 – 30, with a particular interest in the conference’s six (6) areas of action: Marine Protected Areas, Marine Pollution, Sustainable Blue Economies, Maritime Security, Sustainable Fisheries, and Climate Change.
During the week of the conference, both local and international youth had the opportunity to engage in round table discussions on the OOC six thematic areas, visit numerous Protected Areas Network sites, attend and participate in the OOC plenary sessions and side events, and experience the wonders of Palau’s UNESCO Rock Island Southern Lagoon.
One of the youngest Palauan youth delegates, Ms. Iseko Willyander, shares, “The Our Ocean Conference was a humbling and memorable experience. I’ll never forget the renewed sense of hope and encouragement that I felt upon hearing innovative ideas and commitments made to aid our ocean. I was especially humbled to take part in the youth delegation and share knowledge gained from my culture and the people that surround me. With the special opportunity granted to me, I was able to bring to the table a youth perspective along with indigenous knowledge.”
“The conference demonstrated again the necessity of inclusion and cross-sector collaboration to confront the challenges our oceans face. Small Island Developing States (SIDS), indigenous communities, women, and youth must get considered. Alarming data and testimonies were delivered, yet shadowed by the inspiring stories heard not solely on the main stage but throughout the whole islands of Palau.”, says international youth delegate, Mr. Orlando Anaya.
Each youth delegate made an individual commitment to further urgent ocean actions and altogether made one collective commitment:
“We propose the formation of a task force of previous Our Ocean youth delegates that facilitates the further integration of young people. This will ensure the continuity and passing of knowledge from conference to conference and youth inclusion in the dialogues and decision-making processes. This inclusion should be done from the strategic planning stage and should not be tokenistic.
We came to this consensus through our involvement in this 7th Our Ocean Conference, our participation in the plenary, as speakers, and from our experiences as leaders in our communities. Palau has raised the bar and we urge future our ocean conference organizers to continue and improve upon this tradition of youth inclusion.” – 7th Our Ocean Conference Youth Delegation
With great gratitude, the 7th Our Ocean Conference committee would like to thank the country of Ireland, Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the Nippon Foundation, as well as the Asian Development Bank for their generous support for the 7th OOC Youth Delegation.

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