The stakes are higher every day.

Crimes against wildlife have been increasing over the past years, fuelled by conflicts and the trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products. The impact is devastating on the populations of both iconic and lesser-known species. Despite a range of decisions and actions, UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and Natural World Heritage sites have not been safe from these crimes.  

This calls for a new commitment by everyone to prevent these crimes and promote justice. Young women and men have a special role to play here, as change-makers today and future custodians. We must listen to them and nurture their engagement, to craft new forms of action to conserve and protect wildlife on the basis of solidarity.

This is the meaning of the 2017 World Wildlife Day, under the theme of “Listen to Young Voices.” We must support young people in connecting the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ for more effective wildlife conservation. This has never been so important at a time when Governments are working all-out to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement, to build a world that is more resilient, inclusive and sustainable and to forge new ties of harmony between development and the planet.

For this, we need young voices. We need young people to speak out, to join hands and to collaborate in shaping new paths to sustainable development in ways that conserve wildlife and protect the shared wealth of biodiversity. This is UNESCO’s message today.

Irina Bokova