In celebration of Europe Day 2020, EU Ambassador to the ASEAN Igor Driesmans reached out to the ASEAN youth in a virtual discussion moderated by Ms. Agatha Lydia Natania of the ASEAN Youth Organization and Ms. Hanny Nurmalita, EU Share Alumna.
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"Let's address the issues together": the EU reassures ASEAN youth of its commitment to the region

In a virtual talk with representatives of youth organisations from across Southeast Asia, the EU Ambassador to the ASEAN expresses solidarity with the region especially in its fight to preserve and promote biodiversity.

13. May 2020

Describing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as its “number one development partner”, the European Union (EU)'s ASEAN Ambassador Igor Driesmans has expressed commitment to continued support for the region's programmes and projects, particularly in conserving irs rich biodiversity.

“In times when so many countries are turning inwards, it is important that we stand by our ideals of cooperation and international solidarity," Ambassador Driesmans said on Saturday during a virtual discussion to celebrate Europe Day 2020. Representatives from various youth organisations, including the Youth Biodiversity Leaders (YBL) of the ASEAN Youth Biodiversity Programme (AYBP), participated in the virtual talk organised by the EU Mission to the ASEAN.

Youth leaders fielded questions on diverse topics related to EU-ASEAN relations, including education and scholarship opportunities, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the EU’s support for various programmes, such as biodiversity conservation.

The EU is among the ASEAN’s staunch allies in its biodiversity management efforts. In 1999, it supported the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (ARCBC), which then became the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in 2005. In 2017, the ACB launched the NIRAS-implemented Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP) project in partnership with the EU. BCAMP's programmes on mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in the region, protected area management, knowledge generation, and capacity-building, support the initatives of ASEAN Member States. The provision of camera traps, information technology (IT) and communication devices to amp up monitoring and law-enforcement activities for protected areas in Lao PDR and Malaysia and and the transboundary collaboration between Thailand and Malaysia are two recent initiatives among the many notable highlights from the BCAMP project. Read more here.

Driesmans lauded the extensive work of the ACB in conserving a great percentage of global species living in the ASEAN region. “It’s a fantastic programme,” he said, recalling his visit to the ACB headquarters in 2019. He cited the ASEAN Heritage Parks Programme (AHPs) as among the “amazing work” that ACB does to preserve biodiversity in the ASEAN region. 

BCAMP also supports the AYBP, which provides ASEAN youth with capacity-building, mentorship and resources to scale their impact for biodiversity conservation. Through its leadership and AHP internship sub-programmes, the AYBP is able to develop new generation leaders and conservationists whose voices help to mainstream biodiversity conservation in the national and regional policies. In 2019, 20 YBLs were selected and trained, with some of them being recognised as youth resource persons by at least five ASEAN member states. 

“Regional to regional cooperation is paramount, as made apparent by COVID-19. What happens in this region, such as with wildlife trade, human-wildlife interactions, and decreased ecosystem resilience due to land-use change and degradation -- all leading to increased risk of emergence of infectious diseases -- can have devastating impacts not just on the communities here, but also in other regions like Europe,” said Mika Tan, AYBP coordinator. 

Concerned with the effects of the pandemic on the ongoing programmes of the EU in the ASEAN Region, Racelle Rescordado, 2020 ASEAN Youth Biodiversity Leader from the Philippines, enquired about the future of the EU-ASEAN partnership. Ambassador Driesmans assured that “We have actually taken the deliberate decision that ongoing EU-ASEAN programnes should be maintained and even those programmes that have not started yet will be maintained.”

Stressing that health and socio-economic programmes are at the top of the EU’s financial commitments, Driesmans called the youth sector to “address (the issues) together as much as we can.” He added, “what young people can do is make your voice heard.” The envoy likewise addressed the climate change issue and the role that the ASEAN youth play in raising awareness. Driesmans noted that 56% of global peatlands are in ASEAN, and promoting the sustainable use of peatlands is among the concrete programmes between the EU and ASEAN. 

What is ahead of us in climate change is really an emergency situation. The effects are being felt today but even if tomorrow global emissions would go to zero, we would still feel the consequences of what we’ve already done so the situation will get worse if we don’t do anything.

EU Ambassador to the ASEAN, Igor Driesmans

A quiz highlighting the key programmes between EU and ASEAN, including educational scholarships, the newly-published Blue Book 2020 and other interesting trivia about both the EU and the ASEAN, capped the virtual talk.