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For the first time, fifty young people from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand gathered in Bangkok for the inaugural Asian Youth for Sustainable Palm Oil Summit. The summit was co-organised by RSPO, the People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze), and GIZ Thailand. After nine hours of intense discussions and productive critical arguments, youth representing a diverse group of socio-cultural backgrounds joined hands to co-create their commitment towards a shared responsibility for making sustainable palm oil the norm.
The youth delegation hosted their summit prior to the RSPO’s annual Roundtable Conference (RT17) to highlight the urgency for big businesses to act now.
In their joint statement,The Asian Youth Delegation called for urgent changes to be made,"We represent four billion people in the region. We grew up in an era of extreme change. We have seen our homes once a place of warmth to be on fire now, our air that gives us breath to be coloured in grey haze and smog, our coastline where we have our livelihoods to be receding. And elsewhere in the world, we see glaciers melting, temperatures rising above the imaginable and typhoons destroying everything in its way. There is a need to act now.”
The delegation asked businesses to commit to and deliver on their environmental promises, and to be transparent about their progress. Arguing that long-term investment will encourage brand loyalty and economic benefit, they hoped consumers and businesses would become united towards a common goal for a sustainable future.
The Asian Youth Delegation emphasised that accountability and innovation are key, and as the next generation they will be committing to sustainability themselves but also hold organisations and businesses accountable. They continued, "with our numbers and the economics we represent, which constitute more than 50% of the global GDP, we believe that youth today have great power to offer. Our common values, ideas and energy will be our drive. To support you, the youth of Asia promises you here today that:
The shift towards sustainable palm oil is a win-win situation for all. We believe that, not just us the youth, but all of us here today want to live in a future that is recognisable to us, one with abundant clean air to breathe, thriving forests and wildlife. There is no reason to accept anything less. This is the time for you, people of great power and influence within your circles lead this change.”
The fifty young people were joined by representatives from each supporting organisation in their call for business commitment. Benjamin Tay, Executive Director, PM Haze said, “Engaging with youth has always been part of our advocacy strategy, as we believe that we can grow an effective grassroots movement to increase adoption of sustainable palm oil to prevent transboundary haze in the region.”
And Kanokwan Saswattecha, Project Manager of Sustainable and Climate-friendly Palm Oil in Thailand, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, added “We, GIZ as a cooperation development agency, commit here that we together with Thai youth will leverage this awareness.”
RSPO’s India representative, Kamal Seth culminated the sentiment of the summit, saying "There is a big opportunity for businesses to meet the sustainability expectations of the youth and build trust and brand loyalty through sustainable palm oil sourcing policies and actions. We encourage all RSPO members to respond to this call. Together we can inspire a generation of people with hope and optimism and co-create a more inclusive world for all. There is no planet B."
The Asian Youth Delegation will now continue their work on #YouthForSustainability in their respective countries.
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