Youth for the Sustainable Development Goals Program

By. María de los Ángeles Schoenbeck, CSF 2021

Peace Boat US, an organization committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), strives to foster a culture of peace and sustainability worldwide, transcending borders and facilitating international learning, activism, and cooperation. The Youth for the SDGs 2024 program, officially endorsed by UNESCO as a Contribution to the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, co-sponsored by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) and Blue Planet Alliance, is a unique learning and capacity-building experience for young activists and academics engaged in global SDG initiatives, held from January 22 to February 10, 2024 in the Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia.

I was selected as one of seven international leaders to participate in the Youth for the SDGs 2024 program as a representative of SOA Guatemala. Through this experience, we had the opportunity to travel around Patagonia to learn about the impacts of climate change, while also learning about innovative solutions to conserve our oceans. We also took part in citizen science activities in collaboration with EarthEcho International, conducting water quality tests in various harbors and water bodies throughout our trip.

On this trip we had the opportunity to witness the collaborative efforts of several local organizations, including participating in the “Blue Innovation Reception” in collaboration with Chilean NGOs and governmental institutions in Valparaiso. At this reception, I was able to share my work on mangrove restoration, training, and activism in Guatemala, as well as the efforts to conserve kelp forests, indigenous traditions, and the protection of the Patagonia.

We then travelled to southern Chile, where we had the opportunity to observe local wildlife, including pumas (Puma concolor) in the wild with their young, guanacos, Andean condors, and Magellanic penguins. This trip gave us the opportunity to observe numerous shorebirds in Patagonia, including resident and migratory species, many of which we monitor in the Pacific of Guatemala too.

We sailed aboard the Peace Boat “MV Pacific World” for 7 days, departing from Puerto Natales, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, undoubtedly an enriching and unforgettable experience for all those present. During the trip, we had the opportunity to disembark to visit Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego to commemorate International Wetlands Day with a visit to the Heart of the Island Provincial Reserve, specifically to the Ramsar Site, the Vinciguerra Glacier and the associated peatlands. These wetlands, which comprise 90% of Argentina’s largest wetlands, are critically endangered due to their use in various industries, but are remarkably valuable due to their high carbon capture and storage capacity.

Back on board the Peace Boat, on the voyage to Buenos Aires, several environmental education and cultural exchange conferences were held with Japanese and Korean colleagues from the other side of the Pacific. I was able to share with this diverse international audience my lead project with the Coastal Solutions Program: Resilient Coastal Ecosystems: Strategies to Conserve Shorebirds on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, where SOA Guatemala is involved as an allied partner.

This year, the Youth for the SDGs program highlighted the United Nations World Oceans Day theme, “Awaken New Depths” by exploring the vastness of the ocean, learning about the importance of conservation for deep sea marine animals, and biodiversity around the world.

We are continuing this year with great enthusiasm, and together with SOA-Guatemala, we plan to develop a series of activities aimed at amplifying the conservation message on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Guatemala. Among these plans are our initiatives to raise public and government awareness of underwater mining, in which we urge the Guatemalan government to join regional efforts in Latin America to support a moratorium or precautionary pause, due to the potential negative effects of this activity, including impacts on climate change, and marine biodiversity.

We will also continue to contribute to local and international environmental education, collaborating with various organizations such as the Coastal Marine Alliance, and other international partners. We began this series of activities with the first environmental education event, held on March 18, together with Exploring by the Seat of your Pants, where I had the opportunity to give a virtual talk titled The Epic Odyssey of Shorebirds in the Pacific Flyway, to children between the ages of 8 and 13 from different schools in Canada.

This year, SOA-Guatemala plans to provide even more support to the project I currently lead as a Coastal Solutions Fellow, at the Monterrico Multipurpose Nature Reserve. This collaboration will involve mangrove ecosystem restoration actions, as well as focus on developing extensive communication campaigns on our social networks to promote sustainable tourism in coastal areas and reach people both inside and outside the country. We will also have the opportunity to provide our university volunteers with field work experience, which will be focused on conservation issues in coastal protected areas.

Coastal Solutions Fellowship Program

The Coastal Solutions Fellows Program builds and supports an international community to design and implement solutions that address coastal challenges across the Pacific Americas Flyway. Our main goal is to conserve coastal habitats and shorebird populations by building the knowledge, resources, and skills of Latin American professionals, and by fostering collaborations among multiple disciplines and sectors.