3 Jun 2022 | Story | S+50

Youth firmly in the spotlight at Stockholm+50

Young, passionate advocates from around the world gathered at the Stockholm+50 international meeting this week to have their say on how to create a more sustainable future.

Issues on the agenda included: sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, unlocking finance for nature, nurturing indigenous knowledge and custodianship of the environment, and the right to a healthy environment.

Around 300 young people participated in the meeting in the Swedish capital, along with several thousand joining online. More than 700 more also played a role in the Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force preparations for the meeting.

See how young people engaged with world and business leaders to spur action for a healthy planet for the prosperity of all:

Youth Assembly

People speaking at a conference
Photo: UNEP

Youth advocacy for Stockholm+50 began as early as February 2022, on the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) in Nairobi, where young people organised a dedicated Youth Assembly. At the second session of the youth assembly in Stockholm, participants met with UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake, to express their views on critical issues affecting younger generations. They called for the mainstreaming of youth engagement in environmental and multilateral processes on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt (COP 27).

“Change is coming,” said Wickramanayake. We will continue to fight for our [youth] voices to be heard at the decision-making table.”

UN Secretary-General speaks to youth

 UN Secretary-General with young activists
Photo: UNEP

UN Secretary-General António Guterres sat down with the Youth Task Force, where Diana Garlytska from Ukraine raised concerns about the thousands of children displaced in her country and the need to ramp up efforts to ensure the right to education.

Mais Jaber Hassan from Syria underlined that young people in countries most affected by the environmental crisis are not adequately represented in international conferences. And Aatika Patel, Fiji, gave an emotional statement on how the homes and people in Fiji are drowning due to the consequences of climate change.

Meeting with Inger Andersen

A group photo
Photo: UNEP

At an event hosted by the Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force, Inger Andersen, Secretary General of Stockholm+50 and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) met with youth delegates to discuss issues proposed in the draft youth policy papers to be presented at COP 27 by the Youth Task Force.

Andersen congratulated the young people for a successful closing of the Youth Assembly, which started at UNEA and the very insightful discussions on intergenerational responsibility and youth leadership in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

“UNEP has been fighting for environmental rights for youth since our very start. It is the basis of our mission – a healthy environment for younger generations,” said Andersen.

Youth roundtable with Ellie Goulding

People in a group discussion
Photo: UNEP

Ellie Goulding, UNEP’s Goodwill Ambassador and renowned singer-songwriter, met with youth representatives to discuss inclusive solutions to environmental issues.

Young indigenous leader, Tukumã Pataxó of Brazil, stressed the need to include voices and experiences of indigenous communities. He attended Stockholm+50 with four other young, indigenous activists to raise awareness of the impact of the climate crisis on their communities.

Ecuadorian environmental and human rights activist Helena Gualinga spoke of the importance of environmental leadership. Growing up amidst leaders in her Kichwa Sarayaku community, she felt inspired to speak up and call for action to address environmental crises.

Ilyess El Kortbi, a Fridays for Future activist from Ukraine, emphasized the connection between conflict and the environment. She said that young people suffer the strongest consequences of environmental crises even though they are not responsible for them.

Role of youth in COVID-19 response and recovery

Photo: UNEP

An estimated 1.2 billion young people have been impacted by the negative effects of the pandemic. COVID-19 response measures, though necessary, have exacerbated disruptions to education and youth employment opportunities, access to services and social support and added to an increase in gender-based violence cases.

At this session, youth discussed the important role they have been playing in supporting communities to overcome the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

“We need to trust and believe in young people,” said Vsevolod Lukashenok, Programme Manager for the Y Movement. We need to listen to their needs instead of imposing assumptions of what we think they need.”

Global Youth Policy Paper Recommendations

People speaking at a conference
Photo: UNEP

The Youth Task Force agreed to the Global Youth Policy Paper, which is the result of regional consultations hosted by civil society youth networks and grass-roots organizations. In it, young people demand that governments focus on four main pillars: actions for a healthy planet, COVID-19 recovery, the environmental dimension of sustainable development, and ensuring inclusive decision-making.

The document calls for governments to commit to their National Determined Contributions (NCDs), hold major polluters accountable for their environmental damage, and protect and restore ecosystems.

“The policy paper and recommendation represents months of work, volunteering and dedication from a task force that ensured that all constituencies, within and outside the UN, were properly heard and represented for a common recommendation,” said UN Youth Envoy Wickramanayake.

Climate strike by Fridays for Future

Youth protest
Photo: UNEP

On the concluding day of Stockholm+50, Fridays for Future organized a peaceful protest to call for an international treaty to prevent fossil fuel exploration and expansion, limit global warming and preserve biodiversity.

“We have the solutions. Let's implement them. We have the knowledge. Let us use it. We have nature. Let us restore her. We cannot eat oil. We cannot adapt to loss and damage,” said Mana Omar, a young climate activist from Kenya

Green Jobs Youth Pact

People talking at a conference
Photo: IISD

Organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNEP, and the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), this event focused on boosting green jobs and green, employable skills in key countries and high-impact sectors. ILO data shows that 100 million jobs worldwide could be created in sustainable energy and circular economy by 2030.

The organizations announced their intent to work more closely with youth organisations through the Green Jobs for Youth Pact, which will be launched at COP 27.

“We are at a point where youth face anxiety about work, their planet, and their purpose,” said Vladislav Kaim, UN Secretary-General Youth Advisor on Climate Change. “Green jobs for youth is an indicator of stability in a world where countries still fail to deliver on their promises to keep below 1.5 below pre-industrial times.”