Southeast Asia is a region where biodiversity is one of the richest in the world. It is also in danger of massive biodiversity destruction caused by globalized capitalism, over-emphasis on economic development, expansion of genetically-modified crops, deregulated use of chemicals in agriculture, proliferation of extractive industries and agro-business plantations, civil wars, lack of laws to protect biodiversity and passage of laws inimical to biodiversity, and the worsening poverty of local peoples. During the last decade, over 23 million hectares of forests have been destroyed in Southeast Asia with over 2,670 species of fauna and flora endangered or threatened.
This is why, over the past years, terre des hommes Germany partners have completed studies and researches on local indigenous wisdom and biodiversity, and have conducted several media advocacy and training-workshops on biological and cultural diversity.
For the Southeast Asia Youth Network (SYN), the global campaign of tdh on the “Child Right to a Healthy Environment” #MyPlanetMyRights is relevant and fits into the direction that was agreed upon in January 2019. Since its formation, the issue of environmental destruction and the resulting impacts this has on the fulfillment of their rights, has been consistently identified by the children and youth SYN members as an urgent and priority issue.
In Laos and Thailand, the SYN members are unified in identifying the threat of dam construction along the Mekong and Salaween River and have been actively involved in opposing the planned construction of these dams. In the Philippines, environmental issues being taken up are closely linked to heightened militarization and displacement of communities occupying land (mostly ancestral domain of indigenous people) which are being targeted as expansion areas for mining and commercial plantations. The ongoing priority of the government to increase coal-fired power plants as a source of energy is also another environmental issue which children and youth are involved in. River pollution and garbage pollution are urgent issues as well that are affecting children and youth in all SEA countries and this is particularly the focus of the advocacy of children and youth from Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
For the Global Action Month 2021 and as continued contribution to the global campaign, MY PLANET MY RIGHTS, the Southeast Asia Youth Network and the Mekong Youth Assembly conducted regional webinars on the topic of children’s right and the environment. Every weekend for the whole month of November, young people were invited to 3-hour webinars to learn about environmental advocacy, environmental laws, natural conservation and environmental art expression.
In the countries, youth groups continues awareness-raising on the campaign and on specific environmental issues such as use of chemical pesticides, mining, coal-fired power plants, through caravans, press conference, Facebook live sessions, seminars and photo competition.