Peace Boat US launched an exciting new Youth for the SDGs program as an endorsed “Contribution” of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Latin America Voyage, the second of two Peace Boat US programs during the 114th Global Voyage, was held from June 20 to July 5, 2023. Thirteen young leaders who are passionate about sustainable energy, climate and the ocean from around the world completed a unique 16-day experiential learning program onboard Peace Boat, traveling from Panama, to Guatemala and Mexico. The initiative provided an enriching experience for the young leaders through a combination of capacity development, citizen science, networking and educational programs onboard Peace Boat and in ports. Participants broadened their knowledge of marine science and climate action on a scale from local to global.

The program commenced in Panama where the Youth for the SDGs Scholars visited the United Nations Environment Program at its headquarters in Panama City, to discuss SDG implementation with local young professionals. A highlight of the Panama visit was a trip to the Embera Quera indigenous community for a cultural exchange and nature-based solutions study program and homestay. The final days spent in Panama focused on ocean conservation and biodiversity with visits to partners in the BioMuseo, Reef2Reef, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Before boarding the ship, the Scholars participated in an event hosted by the country’s Ministry of Energy to learn about SDG 7, for Affordable and Clean Energy.

Blue Planet Alliance Global Ambassadors discussing renewable energy to more than 100 youth present at the event with the Ministry of Energy in Panama.

Youth for the SDGs in front of the Peace Boat in Manzanillo, Mexico. July 2, 2023

From Panama, the Peace Boat sailed to Guatemala. While onboard, in addition to studying with climate and ocean experts, the Scholars hosted workshops to present their work in their home countries. Each Scholar gave a presentation to all the passengers onboard the ship to introduce themselves as young activists working on ocean conservation and sustainability issues and to share their local initiatives towards implementing the SDGs.

Blue Planet Alliance Global Ambassadors discussing renewable energy to more than 100 youth present at the event with the Ministry of Energy in Panama. June 24, 2023

“The Youth for the SDGs program in Latin America was an experience like no other. My biggest takeaway is… that even with a lack of support, regulations, and against all odds, individuals come together to drive change as a community. Collectively, small actions can achieve positive impact.”

Rigoberto Amaya

In Guatemala, the Scholars participated in various study programs to learn about marine life,  mangroves and conservation efforts taking place in the region. The most substantial takeaway from this experience was how the local community plays a role in the conservation actions based on their unique knowledge of the local ecosystems. The scholars continued to learn about local customs with meals hosted by the Xinca indigenous community. The participants collaborated with Sustainable Ocean Alliance, to take part in a turtle monitoring program, to evaluate migration habits and the general health of turtles coming to this region to nest.

Panama’s Ministry of Energy event participants in front of Peace Boat with the sign “#United for the Energy Transition”. June 24, 2023

The final country visited for the Latin America program was in Manzanillo, Mexico. The participants attended the 2nd Annual Blue Economy Forum, co-hosted by Restore Coral and local government partners and NGOs, who worked together as a team to gather experts from various fields including aquaculture, ports, biotechnology, coral reef restoration, energy, and governance. Several keynote speeches were given by passionate practitioners, including various youth scholars,  looking to advance the blue economy values in their own work.

Fran speaking about his work shop on “the blue” in Costa Rica. June 27, 2023

In addition to the rich cultural experiences in the Latin American countries visited, the participants conducted water research using testing-kits from Peace Boat US partner, EarthEcho International. The international program is dedicated to safeguarding water resources worldwide and to promote water sustainability to young people. This collaboration  encourages active participation in protection of water bodies and is endorsed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) UNESCO.

Green sea turtle, Aurora, has revisited the same beach to lay her eggs for years. El Paredon, Sipacate, Escuintla, Guatemala. June 29, 2023

The Peace Boat US Youth for the SDGs Program in Latin America participants gained a wide range of knowledge through experiences about ocean conservation and sustainable energy in the region. Youth for the SDGs participant Molly Rosaaen stated, “the program is an incredible opportunity that gives young people the space to connect with others in similar fields and come together to further our common goals. All of the participants on the voyage brought something unique to the experience and it showed how truly interconnected all of our work is.” Participants returned to their home countries with greater capacity to make a positive impact on climate and ocean related issues, and a new network of young leaders working towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.