Belt and Road Youth Stories|From Small Town Student to UN Intern, Spreading China's Narrative to the World

Editor’s note: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has opened up vast development space for the participating nations, facilitating profound growth and development. Young individuals from diverse countries have enhanced their understanding and achieved mutual success and growth through learning from each other. Their contributions demonstrate the vigor of youth in the pursuit of a shared future for mankind. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRI. In commemoration of this milestone, Shanghai Joao Tong University (SJTU) has launched the “Belt and Road Youth Stories” article series, recounting the endeavors of SJTU students in BRI.

In the year 2000, GUO Zongzhe was born in a picturesque village nestled alongside the majestic Yellow River in China. In 2021, he embarked on an academic odyssey, enrolling at the School of Oceanography of Shanghai Jiao Tong University to pursue a Master of Science degree in Marine Science. Zongzhe, a student deeply reverent towards the natural world and possessing a profound appreciation for the sanctity of life, has dedicated himself to the noble cause of wildlife preservation. On numerous occasions, he has actively engaged in wildlife conservation initiatives and tirelessly promoted strategies to safeguard the untamed denizens of our planet.

Fast forward to the date of January 26, 2023, and extending until June 26 of the same year, Zongzhe was extended a distinguished invitation. He embarked on a journey to the esteemed United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP): Subregional Office for East and North-East Asia. Over the course of five months, he undertook an internship that conferred upon him the distinguished title of Environmental Affairs Intern within the secretariat of the East and North-East Asia Subregional Environmental Cooperation Program.

Zongzhe Guo was bestowed the UN Internship Certificate

Contribute to the Northeast Asian Marine Protected Areas Network (NEAMPAN)

Overview of the distribution of NEAMPAN

Founded in 2013, the Northeast Asian Marine Protected Areas Network (NEAMPAN) has unwaveringly committed itself to establishing a collaborative platform for the efficient monitoring, information sharing, and comprehensive evaluation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) among Northeast Asian nations, including China, Russia, Japan, and Republic of Korea. On the occasion of NEAMPAN’s 10th anniversary, in response to the Steering Committee’s directive, the Secretariat of the Northeast Asian Subregional Environmental Cooperation Program has taken on the responsibility of enlarging the membership roster of NEAMPAN.

Under the guidance of Environmental Affairs Associate Officer, Rouna A, Zongzhe conducted a thorough analysis of the current status of NEAMPAN. He meticulously compared and assessed the 12 existing MPAs from the perspectives of conservation objectives, ecological connectivity, management challenges, and corresponding solutions. Furthermore, he precisely formulated nomination criteria for NEAMPAN membership, aligning them with the criteria established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for MPAs.

These dedicated efforts resulted in the development of the NEAMPAN Expansion Plan Proposal (Draft), which serves as a guiding document and strategic blueprint. This proposal equips the Secretariat with valuable insights and a structured plan to guide their future endeavors.

The cover page of Zongzhe’s Internship Report

Before the conclusion of his internship, Zongzhe presented a comprehensive work report to the entire office, titled “Northeast Asia Marine Protection Area Network: Navigating the Past, Shaping the Future.” Within this report, Zongzhe unveiled the results of his research on the current state of the NEAMPAN. He also delineated practical solutions to address issues such as insufficient public awareness and inadequate management funding for these areas.

Furthermore, drawing from the evolving definitions of MPAs set forth by IUCN and UNEP, as well as the global trends in the development of marine protection networks, Zongzhe envisioned and meticulously planned the progress of NEAMPAN at three distinct time points: 2025, 2030, and 2040. This forward-thinking plan involved a phased expansion of the NEAMPAN registry, the cultivation of collaborative partnerships between MPAs with shared conservation objectives, and the final inclusion of terrestrial conservation areas from the Northeast Asian nations into a comprehensive network of protected regions.

By 2040, this visionary transformation would see NEAMPAN evolve into the North-East Asia Protection Areas Network, or NEAPAN, serving as a testament to his ambitious vision for the future of marine conservation in the Northeast Asian region.

Distinguished Honor of Being Chosen as the Chinese Tiger Youth Ambassador

Zongzhe alongside the rangers from Huangnihe National Nature Reserve

In January 2020, Zongzhe assumed the role of of a volunteer for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and took part in the Fifth Tiger Habitat Ranger Competition held in the frigid and snow-laden border city of Hunchun, Jilin Province. Against the backdrop of the bitter winter cold and pristine snowscapes, Zongzhe joined the dedicated rangers in their challenging mission, braving rugged terrain and dense forests to survey the snow-covered habitat, dismantle poaching snares, and protect the enigmatic Siberian tigers. Despite the relentless drop in temperatures, their hard work resulted in sweat-soaked determination. This profound experience provided Zongzhe with an intimate understanding of the immense trials and tribulations endured by those who tirelessly fight for the preservation of endangered wildlife.

Through this experience, he gained a profound understanding of the crucial role played by the Siberian tiger, occupying the apex of the forest’s intricate food chain, in maintaining a sustainable ecological balance. Furthermore, Zongzhe remains committed to sharing his knowledge and strategies for the protection of the Siberian tigers and other wild creatures with his mentors, peers, and family members. He tirelessly endeavors to raise awareness about wildlife preservation and staunchly opposes the illicit trade in exotic animals.

Zongzhe (upper right) and twelve other Tiger Youth Ambassadors

In July 2022, Zongzhe received the prestigious honor of being named a Chinese Tiger Youth Ambassador by the WWF Beijing Office. This notable recognition paved the way for his participation in the esteemed 2022 International Youth Tiger Summit. This extraordinary gathering brought together the convergence of Tiger Youth Ambassadors from 13 nations, each of which is home to this magnificent feline species. These young ambassadors came together to listen to the wise insights and passionate stories shared by Mr. Stuart Chapman, the distinguished leader of the Global Tiger Conservation Program, and the courageous defenders of the wild who risk their lives to protect these majestic creatures. Through an interactive workshop format, they delved deeply into the engaging discourse surrounding the conservation of the elusive wild tiger.

In his role as a youth representative, Zongzhe, along with a peer from Bhutan, solemnly took on the responsibility of reciting and promoting the Global Youth Tiger Conservation Initiative. In a solemn declaration, this initiative urges the governments of tiger-habitat nations to commit unwaveringly to the execution of the Global Wild Tiger Recovery Plan, over the upcoming twelve years, spanning from 2023 to 2034. The resounding call is to preserve and rejuvenate the dwindling tiger sanctuaries, establish and maintain ecological corridors, address human-wildlife conflicts, combat the menace of poaching, and thwart the illicit wildlife trade. United in this noble endeavor, they collectively strive to usher in a brighter future marked by harmonious coexistence between humans and this majestic species. They passionately advocate for a future defined by its beauty and promise.

In the post-summit interviews, Zongzhe shared his reflections with the wisdom of a true visionary, expressing how this youth summit had opened a window of enlightenment for him. Through this window, he gained a profound understanding of the diverse array of tiger conservation efforts taking shape across the globe. With clarity, he now comprehends that safeguarding these magnificent creatures demands the convergence of multitude of efforts, and above all, the youthful vitality and dedication required to fuel this noble cause forward.

Currently, Guo Zongzhe persists in promoting knowledge about wildlife conservation, inspiring his peers to engage in volunteer activities dedicated to wilderness protection. Simultaneously, he has chosen to pursue the study of benthic marine free-living nematodes in the deep-sea for his postgraduate research. His goal is to discover previously unknown nematode species, contributing to a deeper comprehension of the biodiversity of the Earth’s ecological system. Furthermore, he has aspirations to continue his career within international organizations after graduation. His commitment centers on working for the welfare of people worldwide and striving tirelessly for the cause of global sustainability and development.

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