At the beginning of 2024, Peace Boat US held its most recent “Youth for the SDGs” program for the UN Ocean Decade in Patagonia from January 20 to February 10, onboard as the Peace Boat sailed from Chile to Argentina.  The program was held as part of an officially endorsed contribution to the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC/UNESCO). Seven young ocean and climate leaders from Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Peru and the United States joined this unique experiential learning program. They brought their passions for ocean conservation, blue economy, sustainable energy, technologies, and climate awareness, traveling from Santiago, Valparaíso, Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine in Chile, to Ushuaia and Buenos Aires in Argentina.

While in Chile, the program included cooperation with the National Institute of Youth (INJUV) and a visit to the Chilean Congress, as well as water testing and monitoring at Santa Lucia Hill. The Youth for the SDGs scholars had the opportunity to conduct basic monitoring of water bodies, including pH levels, temperature, turbidity, and oxygen levels. The water testing kits, which were provided through a collaboration with EarthEcho International, allowed the youth to participate in citizen science, marine research, conducting 9 water tests throughout the voyage in coastal areas, and glacier rivers of Patagonia. Also during their time in Chile, the Youth for the SDG scholars visited the Faculty of Marine Sciences and Natural Resources of the University of Valparaíso, who are part of the UN Ocean Decade network.

A Blue Innovation Reception was then held on the final evening in Chile with representatives from the local government as well as civil society partner organizations: Patagonia Azul Foundation, a project of Mission Blue, CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin America), University of Valparaiso, Fundación Chile, National Institute of Youth (INJUV), Uno.Cinco, Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA – Chile Hub), Corpo Traitraico, and Ostras Pro. The event welcomed the youth participants, strengthened alliances between organizations, and served as a platform to showcase the efforts of each group represented towards collaborations for the UN Ocean Decade and blue innovation in Chile.

During the final three days in Chile, the Youth for the SDGs Scholars explored the pristine nature of Chilean Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park, in partnership with the National Forestry Corporation (Corporación Nacional Forestal – CONAF), learning about the fragile ecosystems of the, glaciers and habitats for endemic wildlife. While in the national park the youth also conducted water monitoring at Lake Pehoe to see the differences in Ph, oxygen levels and temperature between the lakes and glacial rivers.

From January 31 – February 7, the Youth for the SDG scholars embarked on a journey onboard the Peace Boat, immersing themselves in a wide range of activities designed to foster learning, and international collaboration towards achieving the SDGs. They embraced diverse experiences, from engaging in cultural exchange sessions to attending enlightening lectures by Peace Boat’s guest speakers from Argentina and Brazil on social and environmental issues of the region. The scholars conducted and participated in workshops and presentations which showcased their individual work and explored collaborative opportunities to contribute to various causes related to the UN Ocean Decade. These onboard events for the public served as platforms for knowledge exchange and collective brainstorming towards addressing the main problems facing our ocean, from plastic pollution, threats of deep sea mining and over extraction of marine resources.

The final port of call was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where representatives from Bioguia, Eco House, and Bio Feria visited Peace Boat to discuss future collaborations and partnerships. The Youth for the SDGs joined an environmental study program in the Costanera Sur Natural Reserve, followed by a program titled, “A Journey Through Buenos Aires and the Rio Tigre Delta: Learning History, Culture, and the Environment.” The voyage concluded with a visit to the Ecopark and learning about the flora and fauna at the Botanical Garden in Buenos Aires. 

The 2024 Patagonia Voyage provided an enriching and immersive educational experience for the young leaders, through a combination of ocean awareness, capacity development, citizen science, networking, and nature study programs. Participants broadened their knowledge of marine science and climate action on a scale from local to global, and created a network of lasting partnerships across the region. At the conclusion of the program, Youth for the SDGs scholar Ignacio Cueto from Chile stated, “being a part of the Youth for the SDGs of Peace Boat US has been an amazing experience. Getting to know youth from different parts of Latin America has been a great opportunity. I’ve learned a lot from them, and about the SDGs and the UN Ocean Decade.”