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Photos: Unsplash and Robert Bednarczyk/norden.org

Lessons learnt

The initiative took place over the course of three years (2019-2022). Few young people participated for the entire period, and the turnover of young people became an essential part of how the initiative was organised and developed over time. Due to the continued turnover, clear communication channels needed to be in place to ensure the flow and exchange of information and supporting dialogue.  
It has been important to maintain a flexible approach and to be willing to go outside the usual working procedures, as well as to establish partnerships that take different forms, due to cultural differences across the region and differences in how governments and officials work, and how consultations with youth people are understood and carried out.
Allocating resources and time to carry out outreach activities, pass on necessary information, mobilise youth and ensure the continuity of the initiatives is important, and can be achieved by having an organisational setup that allows for youth autonomy. This could include a project manager and assistants (preferably youth representatives) as well as clear points of contact between young people and the Nordic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers. It is helpful to set up contact pathways based on functions within the project rather than individuals (e.g., an email address to the project coordinator, independently of whoever currently fills this role).

Financial support

It is of vital importance to ensure that the financial means are available to support specific activities such as workshops, including travel arrangements, and participation in international meetings and capacity-building activities, as well as communication and outreach activities. The young people come from very different parts of the region and are often busy with education and leisure-time jobs which can place constraints on their continuous engagement over a long period.
Financially compensate young persons who play a leading and/or coordinating role should be considered, including the steering committee’s youth representatives and people who are strongly engaged in planning and organizing events, including the coordination of negotiation processes. Such remuneration could be time-limited or involve longer-term commitment.

Youth autonomy

It is important to provide the young people with a clear mandate that will enable them to influence the direction of the project at as early a stage as possible, whether as members of the steering committee or as other project participants/leaders.  A clear mandate is also an enabler of youth autonomy.
Transparent nomination processes for youth participating in either the Nordic Youth Advisory Committee or in the Nordic Youth Delegation have been crucial, as despite democratic and transparent processes, there have been misperceptions concerning how the young people came to be part of the steering committee, advisory committee or delegation.
It is crucial that the young people have autonomy in creating their activities. Financial means and capacity-building serve as an enabling condition for autonomy, and entail playing an influential role in the project steering committee and being able to decide as freely as possible which activities to pursue. Such freedom includes both setting the topics to be raised and the formats in which to do so.  
It is important that young people can formulate guidance documents, evaluations and other written documentation of the project, so that the purpose and results of the project are formulated in their own words. All activities, including the planning and execution of youth deliberations, materials such as the TOOLKIT, MANUAL and the biodiversity SURVEY were designed and developed jointly by the young people, the Nordic Council and Nordic Council of Ministers building on inputs from biodiversity experts.
Autonomy also means to allow the young people to prioritise activities based on their capacity and the relevance of the activities to the project, bearing in mind that young people often have limited time and resources to spend outside of their main occupations, e.g., studies or work.
To ensure that the project is adequately followed up, it is important to involve the young people in all stages, from the preparation of the project all the way to its implementation and follow-up of its conclusions.

Building cross-national alliances and political committment

Building a strong network among young people and efforts to ensure ownership and relevance to everyone was indispensable. It is important that the young people can meet physically, despite the digital opportunities to work and engage with each other online.
Outreach and collaboration with youth organisations within the environmental space at both national, regional and global level added value and facilitated strong international alliances among the young people, as well as permitting more efficient work within the project, since the established youth organisations often possess a lot of unused capacity and knowledge about the subject.
The young people also had an opportunity to meet other young biodiversity activists from all over Europe and globally and joined in a global youth effort to push governments, businesses, and citizens to act on biodiversity.
Through the Nordic Youth Position Paper, with its 19 demands towards the Global Biodiversity Framework, the Nordic youth were given a unique opportunity to act jointly on biodiversity and climate policy.
As an overall effect of the project, MPs and ministers from across the Nordic Region have broadened their knowledge and taken the opportunity to listen to and understand the priorities of the young people.
Through meetings and communication efforts, the Nordic governments and parliaments have been informed about the demands of the young people regarding the biodiversity crisis, which they can now pursue politically with the support of young people.
The youth people were able to establish a close cooperation with the Global Youth Biodiversity Network which has led to the project becoming a chapter in the Global Youth Biodiversity Network: the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network was founded in 2020.

Capacity building

The young people were offered capacity building in both biodiversity and the UN processes. The Nordic youth have thus acquired an up-to-date understanding of biodiversity based on the latest science, and knowledge about the UN Biodiversity agreement, including the links between the climate and biodiversity. Capacity-building activities have been offered through the national and regional youth deliberations (workshops, conferences, etc.), by attending courses in biodiversity and UN processes organized by the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, as well as Nordic and global capacity-building activities.