Reflections from the Asia Parks Congress Part 1 – participating as a WCPA Young Professional

Submitted by Salwa Nadhira, Indonesia. This blog is the first in a series from three youth participants sponsored by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas to attend the Asia Parks Congress held in Sabah, Malaysia in May 2022.

The Asia Parks Congress (APC) held May 24-29 in Sabah, Malaysia, was an international congress that brought together protected areas leaders, researchers, youth, and Indigenous peoples on the topic of Parks for Nature and People. I was lucky enough to be selected to attend APC as a Young Professional delegate representing the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).

The opportunity to attend the 2nd Asia Parks Congress could not come at a better time for me, right at the start of my professional career. As an admirer of nature’s resiliency in facing challenges, I believe the congress also encouraged me to challenge myself. Feeling inspired to harness every opportunity, I was able to gain novel perspectives and ideas, as well as be more confident in expressing my views and initiating new connections. The APC Plenary Sessions provided me with the opportunity to deepen my understanding on the relevance and significance of the past, current, and future roles played by the IUCN WCPA and the potential for impactful cooperation between all parks in Asia for nature conservation efforts.

For the Working Group Sessions and Side Events, I was overwhelmed with the dozens of diverse and interesting topics to choose from, presented in each room. I eventually opted to hop from one room to another, which was exciting in itself. Through the sessions, I did not only get inspired by the work of the researchers or practitioners presenting the papers, but also by their passion, grit, and integrity. Topics that I was particularly curious about were concerning The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs). These sessions motivated me to explore these strategies and concepts into potential implementation ideas in Indonesia, where I am based. 

The multitude of similarities between Indonesia and Malaysia, particularly from an ecological and cultural aspect, made the appointment of Sabah, Malaysia (the congress’s venue) a befitting opportunity for me. I had many relevant discussions on the country’s parks management and nature conservation programs with the people from Sabah Parks and the tenants of the Congress’s Exhibition. My visit to the State Museum and the Sabah Art Gallery, which was followed by an excursion organized by the Congress Committee to the Gunung Kinabalu National Park, allowed me to delve further into the local context.

As exhilarating as the meetings and trips might have seemed, nothing beats the ways in which the Congress’ Youth Forum made this event greatly memorable. Through the Forum, I personally experienced the power of storytelling for the first time. During one of the sessions in the Forum, I came to realize how my long-hidden lonely feeling of being the odd one in my family, the one who loves nature so much she decided to become a forester, had started to disappear after listening to young people from various countries share their stories of working for nature conservation during the Kupi-Kupi Forum. This realization made me optimistic of undertaking the future tough endeavors of nature conservation, surrounded by amazing and inspiring people. During the Congress, we were also part of history in launching the first Asian Youth Network for Protected Areas!

I believe many young people attending the Congress’ Youth Forum felt hopeful and wished for our permanent involvement in the implementation of what had been learnt and built through this Congress. We need to nurture our hopes with opportunities to learn, connect, and experience more.



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