Across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, to the Republic of Palau and across thousands of miles to the Cook Islands, young people raised their voices at the 7th Our Ocean Conference, seeking to be part of the solution to climate change and ocean health, to be part of the discussion on matters that have a direct impact on their future.

Youths, for the first time at the Our Ocean Conference, were not relegated to a side event on the program agenda but were an integral part of the main event, having their voices and their viewpoints incorporated into the 6 areas of action aimed at increasing ocean’s resilience to climate change and safeguarding its health for the future generations.

Being part of the youth delegation at the 7th Our Ocean Conference held here from April 13 to 14, Elchung Hideyos, a young Palauan working with Ebiil Society was excited to see the youth inclusion in the conference.

“It was an exciting and engaging commitment, being engaged in high-level discussions and networking as a youth.  It is the first step to the engagement of youth, the first step for us to show high-level officials that youths can be part of the solution,” expressed Elchung participating at the 7th Our Ocean Conference as one of the youth representatives from Palau.

Kalani Reyes, a young lady who is the founder of Deep Pacific Collective from CNMI, found validation for her dreams at the conference.

“It just reconfirmed what I have already been focusing on.  Youth have a big voice and they should also speak, not necessarily in matters of governance, at least to each other, so we can hear each others’ stories,” Kalani said of the importance of the networking among the youth during the conference.

Expressing her love of the ocean, a world of nature revealed to her as a child by her indigenous Chamorro roots, Ms. Reyes sees the importance of sharing information with the youth on it as well as listening to them.

“ I have always believed that when I get the opportunity…I would say when and make time for it. It’s super important,” said Reyes of speaking with young people.

“I’ve seen quite a strong empowerment within the youth delegation,” said Anthony Vavia of Cook Islands.  A young scholar pursuing studies in fisheries, particularly coastal artisanal fisheries, was part of the youth delegation and this was not his first  Our Ocean Conference.

“What I am really excited about is that they (youth) have got the drive and they are aware of the modern-day technology to try and push solutions forward to the future,” expressed Anthony.

“The amount of energy that I’ve seen put into their work, their sessions, and their ability to network is incredible and they are extremely motivated. There’s faith, there is faith for these young leaders in the environmental space in the future,” added Anthony Vavia.

“There’s still lots of work to be done,” added  Elchung Hideyos, “and we need to continue our collective commitments.  For myself, my commitment is to be a better educator and a better manager of our oceans, doing what I can to influence people’s actions in their daily lives toward our ocean.”

“I would want to be engaged, be part of the discussion..be part of the future solutions,” said Elchang Hideyos of participating actively in the decision-making processes that affect the ocean and their (youth) futures.”

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