NES Partnership Coordinator, Siana Whatarau, and Winton Herman, who studies marine biology at the Auckland University of Technology, were two Cook Islands youths selected to join ‘Youth for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’, an Arctic voyage on the Peace Boat in June 2023.
The Youth for SDGs programme, coordinated by Peace Boat US, brought together nine youth leaders from around the world that are involved in sustainable development. The group undertook an experiential learning programme in the Arctic, focusing on marine science and conservation. The programme is an official contribution to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science, which took the youth participants to six ports across London, mainland Norway, Svalbard (a Norwegian archipelago) and Iceland. In each port, the youth met with various experts in marine science, sustainable development, environmentalists and passionate ocean advocates to deepen their understanding and knowledge of the challenges facing the ocean with specific focus on the communities visited throughout the programme.
The youth group also brought their own knowledge and experience, and shared Cook Islands context with the wider group. The importance of our oceans through economic, cultural and social means, was relayed to the group through Siana and Winton’s contributions. They joined this voyage with the intention of sharing their experiences as Pacific youth working to conserve their environment in the Cook Islands and to share why global efforts for ocean preservation is so important to the sustainability of our local communities. We must recognize that the environmental degradation of the Arctic will have poor consequences on the rest of the world.
As Siana stated at this voyage “the ocean is not a luxury that we can afford to lose. It is a necessity and a source of life for my people”. NES congratulates Siana and Winton for being selected for this global programme and commend their leadership in youth and conservation measures.