23 Apr 2019 Story Education & environment

Dreams to action: beginning a meaningful conversation with young leaders

One of the main criticisms from youth is that their presence at key United Nations meetings is often tokenistic and that, at such a critical point in time, they don’t have a meaningful seat at the table. We cannot afford to work in isolation and youth are calling for change: “It’s time for us to come together as we ask for space at the table. Let us speak in unison, not in silos,” they say.

To address this, youth delegates attending the Fourth UN Environment Assembly came together to identify a series of actions that can be taken forward by UN Environment's Youth and Education Alliance to support these objectives.

With over 80 young leaders from around the world in the room, the top three asks included:

  1. Resources: provide assistance in the form of finances and further capacity-building to support youth in their journey to influence change.
  2. A joint network: to establish a common platform or strategy which allows youth to connect with each other and learn about each other’s work.
  3. A seat at the table: to gain further support from political leaders and multilateral assemblies to ensure youth have a meaningful seat at the table.

The final day of the Assembly coincided with the Global School Strike for Climate on 15 March 2019, during which over 1.5 million students around the world skipped school and took to the streets.

To mark this movement, a message from Greta Thunberg was delivered into the main Assembly hall: “Every day that passes without real action is failure. And every year that passes without bold changes is a complete disaster. According to science we need unprecedented changes in all aspects of society to take place, starting today, and yet you continue to look the other way. This is why hundreds of thousands of students from all around the world are school striking for the climate, and we will continue to do so until you make sure that we are in line with the Paris Agreement and the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] IPCC report.”

UN Environment is hoping to continue the dialogue with youth and to further identify ways in which support can be offered to youth working on sustainability issues. Key partners in this journey will be University students and partners such as Students Organizing for Sustainability and the World Organization for the Scout Movement.

If you’re keen to get involved, please drop us a line at [email protected]