"Our Heritage. Our Future" - this was the theme of the first Trilateral Wadden Sea Youth Conference held in St. Peter-Ording from 1st to 4th September. 46 young adults from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, who are already involved in or enthusiastic about the Wadden Sea World Heritage, took advantage of the exchange and developed a common vision for cooperation to protect this seascape. Selected representatives of the conference will present the perspectives of the 18 to 30-year-olds at the 14th Trilateral Governmental Conference in Wilhelmshaven at the end of November 2022.
For more than 40 years, the states of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have been working together to protect and conserve the Wadden Sea in its natural state. “At the intergovernmental meeting at the end of November, the cooperation for the next four years will be discussed, thus setting the course for the near future,” explained Prof. Dr Karin Lochte, Chair of the Wadden Sea Board, which prepares the content of the meeting, at the launch of the youth conference. “The voices of the younger generations who will live this future are essential input.”
“Communication is the key” was the main message from the first workshop discussing challenges and opportunities concerning all efforts in protecting the Wadden Sea. “More trilateral exchange is necessary in order to share ideas and find solutions, whether it comes as volunteer work, internships, university or research programs”, says a subgroup of the conference’s participants which includes young adults from all three countries. “The Trilateral Youth Conference was a great opportunity for us young people who are engaged in the Wadden Sea area to build a network, stay in touch and keep working on how to expand existing projects and increase the youth’s influence on the conservation of the Wadden Sea.”
The young adults come from different walks of life: there are students, volunteers, young professionals as well as young entrepreneurs among them. During the four days they discussed aspects of the Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site, examples and forms of youth engagement in nature conservation as well as common future visions for the Wadden Sea and the involvement of youth in its conservation efforts. In addition to the workshops, they also went out on an excursion to the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park, part of the World Heritage site and located in the immediate vicinity of the conference.
“This youth conference is the first of its kind,” says Simone Prestes Dürrnagel, organiser of the youth conference at the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS). “We have had very diverse and passionate participants who have enriched this event. Now we are preparing the results for the intergovernmental meeting and hope not only for a good reception of the vision by the ministers, but also for a 2nd Trilateral Wadden Sea Youth Conference in the not-too-distant future.”
The Youth Conference was organised by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat on behalf of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation (TWSC) and supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funding from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV). As host area, the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park Administration supported the event on site. The facilitation of the Youth Conference was done by Anja Szczesinski from WWF Germany, moderator and coach Irina Bartmann and a team from the UNESCO Chair on Futures Literacy at Hanze University and One Resilient Earth composed by Loes Damhof, Ramila Khafaji Yadeh, Laureline Simon and Niyanta Shetye.