Päivitetty: 14o marras 2019

What is the future of the Nordic region and is there real inclusion in sight for youth? Those are questions to consider after the joint meeting in Stockholm between 9 youth representatives and the Nordic prime ministers.

The Nordic Council is having their annual session, which brings stakeholders together from all the Nordic countries and autonomous areas, including the Nordic Prime Ministers and Nordic youth representatives. Sustainable development is of course at the top of the agenda and this year a big step has been taken towards 2030. On the 20th of August a new vision was adopted, which states the goal of making the Nordic region the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. The focus priorities include a green Nordic region, a competitive region through green growth, and a socially sustainable region, ensuring inclusion and equality for all. Iceland is currently holding the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers and they have decided to focus on youth. This has meant the organising of dialogue meetings and inclusion of youth in different fora.

Today, Wednesday, marks the third dialogue meeting between youth and the Nordic Prime Ministers, where our youth representatives have given their views and opinions on how to make the above vision a reality and how to make progress in the fight against climate change. The representatives from 10 different youth organisations were presenting their points of action to be included in the action plans to achieve the 2030 vision.

Youth was included from the whole Nordic region including Simon Holmström from the ReGeneration 2030 board. He emphasised the youth’s call for a new political

leadership. Along with the other youth representatives, he was able to present his points for action to the ministers including asking the Nordic Council of Ministers should set an end date for the use of fossil fuels in the Nordic region

The joint statement of the youth representatives leaves no uncertainty about the key demand of the youth:

“We, the Nordic youth representatives, consider human-caused climate change as one of the greatest challenges of our time. The climate crisis impacts our existence and is the fateful question that our generation unwillingly inherited from the generations before us. It is now our responsibility we have to share and carry together. It requires an unseen degree of collaboration, courage and will across national borders, sectors of society and generations.”

The statement includes 14 demands among others phasing out fossil fuels, sharing best practices among Nordic countries, doing more to support sustainable consumption patterns, and ensuring an intergenerational and just approach.

Simon expressed mixed feelings after the dialogue meeting, saying that,

”We were disappointed that the prime ministers made excuses claiming that their countries work climate smart when we in the Nordic countries seem to be stuck in the same place.” There is still reason to hope and he also says that “I am pleased that the prime ministers gave an opening to discuss one of our most important requirements, to set an end date for the use of fossil fuels.” He still expect the prime ministers to take the joint statement seriously and use it in the concretisation of the vision.

Simon Holmström is handing over the ReGeneration 2030 Manifesto to Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Icelandic prime minister

After the meeting, Simon had a short chat with Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Icelandic prime minister, the current chair of the Nordic co-operation. She was seemingly interested discussing the idea of setting an end date for the use of fossil fuels.

"I hope that this constructive dialogue will continue also after the Icelandic presidency," says Simon, "ReGeneration 2030 is a fantastic platform for that."


Stinne Friis Vognæs

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At this year’s ReGeneration Summit, the participants got to spend the first day at Mariehamn City Hall. Barbara Heinonen, the City Director of Mariehamn, addressed all the participants in a speech focusing on the importance of youth and how, as a politicians and a person with decision-making power, you have got to lead by example to bring about change.

After her speech we got a chance to sit down with Barbara and talked about engaging youth in municipal decision-making, her own passion for sustainability and she shares her advice for how to get involved as a young person.

ReGeneration (RG): Thank you for talking to us! First of all, we would like to hear a bit more about your thoughts on why you support the ReGeneration 2030 movement and wanted to invite us here to the City Hall?

Barbara Heinonen (BH): I think it’s important because everything starts from the children and the youth. They are the ones that can change us older people. I have a good example from yesterday. A 12-year old girl had her birthday but she said she didn’t want any presents because she thinks she has enough stuff. Her parents explained to me how she, their daughter, had taught them to think about consumption differently. So you have to start with the children and the young people because they want to do the right thing. I know how people your age, how you care for the environment and the future. Here in Finland there was actually a research saying that at least 25% of the whole population are concerned with how we take care of the future and the environment. This shows how important it is. Young people are so enthusiastic and see the opportunities, not only what’s hard to do. They are able to stay happy and excited while trying to make change.

RG: I think a lot of people want to do something and are feeling this climate anxiety, but might not know where to start or feel they have any power. We just heard you talk about the importance of engaging youth in the plans and ideas for Mariehamn, can you tell us more about that?

BH: We have been planning the city centre, so therefore we had children representing three different schools here in the City Hall to discuss their input. They were also walking around the city centre discussing how they would like the area to be like. They would like not to have any cars in the city centre. That’s hard to change, because people want to be able to drive all the way to the place they are going. On the other hand, we need to remember that the city centre is supposed to be for all inhabitants. If you don’t have to be afraid or aware of the cars all the time then you can use this space much more freely and if you can use the space more freely, people will gather and that’s social sustainability. We consider social sustainability in city planning too because it’s a really important, often neglected, aspect of sustainability.

RG: Is there something specific that has shaped your way of thinking when it comes to including citizens and hearing different perspectives? BH: I think it’s partly inspired by our architect here in the house. In the city planning we have had a lot of participatory elements. That has developed into more democratic projects regarding different topics. We have had a discussion about whether people should be able to vote at 16. In the end it wouldn’t be possible to change the legislation, due to Finnish law. But for this project we went to the schools to discuss with youth if they wanted to lower the voting age. They had a lot of good points and arguments, not only supporting the idea but also against it. What we have noticed is that there are a lot of great arguments and insights that we don’t see ourselves. That’s why we need different age groups in decision-making. Usually it’s only older adults who have a say and they might say they have talked with the youth. But sometimes I wonder if they have really gone and had a dialogue with youth or they think they “know” what youth think.

RG: So obviously you’ve really tried to invite people into the City Hall and the decision-making. What has been your overall approach in including different population groups in the everyday work?

B: I think, it’s always about the people you are working with. Here we have a lot of engaged people, who are good at remembering these different perspectives. For example when it comes to gender perspectives, if it’s snowing, should you first remove the snow from the streets or the bike and pedestrian lanes, mostly used by children and women. When you think about this, maybe the priority should not be the car, maybe the need is bigger for the people going by bike, foot, with a stroller for example. So it’s crucial to consider different views, because otherwise we just do what we have always done. We have had many inspiring lectures and workshops, but it’s hard to get people to come, because they have to do it besides their work, it has to be a priority for them personally.

RG: What’s your advice to young people who want to get involved?

BH: Don’t be afraid to take contact. If you have an idea, I think most people want to listen and hear that idea. At least if people bring their ideas, it gives the chance to have a dialogue, and as a decision-maker you also get the chance to explain why maybe something can’t be done. Maybe due to legislation or certain processes. But most of the time these ideas are really implementable. When I was going to the schools, what the students wanted was quite small things. It was not expensive things that young people wanted. These things can be done.

RG: How do you see your role in encouraging youth to engage?

BH: You have to be a good example as a leader. I have a competition to not use the car; only for long distances, but 5 km is not a long distance. Here in Mariehamn the longest distance is maximum 11 km and mostly much less, so I can go by bike anywhere. I think of how I can be an example with these kind of actions. When it comes to food I try not to throw anything away, because it has a big impact. Everybody can do something in this area, we can all use our nose! Don’t just look at the expiration date, we can use our eyes, nose, our common sense.

RG: That is very true, we can all do our share! Do you have any final thoughts you want to add?

BH: I believe people want to change. We know we have to take care of each other and the environment and we have to have hope! There’s always something to be hopeful about, even with Trump, Brexit and all the things happening in the world. I had one group coming here from England right after the Brexit vote. The youth here was really shocked about the result, they didn’t think it could happen. My children also talked about it and even though they didn’t always like the EU, they talked about the possibilities of studying abroad, collaborating on science, all these benefits. The young visitors from England was also shocked but said to us, “it’s our fault, because we didn’t go vote”. You have to go and vote if you have that democratic possibility and the freedom to say what you think. We should remember how important that is. Here in Finland we didn’t have high voting percentage in the EU elections either, but it’s so important. It’s really important to engage younger people about why the EU is important. You have to make it relevant to them, think about the free roaming system or studying, traveling. It has to be something relatable for them, something that is relevant to their lives.

Thank you so much Barbara for inviting the youth of ReGeneration 2030 to the Mariehamn City Hall and for taking the time to talk to us!

Author: Stinne Friis Vognæs

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Tatiana Lanshina, Chair of the Regeneration 2030 Steering Committee
“From what I have seen so far, most movements trying to engage youth in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainable development are mainly educational and mostly about disseminating information about the SDGs. They are more focused on inspiring youth to learn more but often they lack tangible suggestions for action, like what a young person should do with all this information or how they can use it in their career and in the future. In ReGeneration 2030 we are trying to make it more concrete and aiming to develop some specific instruments, that would make a difference and I think that is what differentiates ReGeneration 2030 from many other youth movements.”

Tatiana Lanshina is the Chair of the Steering Committee of ReGeneration 2030 since December 2018, but this is only one of the many ways that she is engaging with the area of sustainability. Her passion revolves around renewable energy and this is also where her interest in sustainability got sparked more than 10 years ago.

“When I was a second year student, I joined a competition for students, where we had to write some kind of scientific research on a topic that we were interested in. I was thinking about many different topics, but I chose renewable energy and it changed my life. I got very inspired by this idea, how you can use renewable resources instead of gas and oil. I like the variety of ways of thinking and innovation happening in this field.”

About six years ago she got the opportunity to research and study renewable energy and sustainable development as a researcher at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, where she is now a senior researcher. This was a dream come true for her. Her background in economics helps her look at the field of sustainability and renewable energy from a different perspective and she does most of her research on how the SDGs and sustainability are being promoted and put into policy. From this knowledge she prepares recommendations for Russia.

Her approach to youth engagement in the SDGs goes much beyond inspiration. She wishes that youth would strive to make their careers in the field of sustainability or even start their own social enterprises. Sustainability is gaining more and more attention and becoming an interesting field for more young people to engage in, but she feels that Russia is lacking behind in this regard.

“In Russia, many young people know very little about sustainability, especially when you go beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg. Even in the largest cities, tendencies are still complex. On the one hand, there are more and more young people in Moscow who want to be engaged in the areas of sustainable development, who are trying to build their careers in this sphere, who are seeking to change the companies they work for, but on the other hand, the majority of young people, even in Moscow, still dream to be employed at the government or at a large oil, gas or mining company, because of salaries and social benefits. So many people do not want to take risks such as going to some new and emerging industry or establishing their own business. Many young people do not want to take risks at all.”

Tatiana would like to help open and change the minds of young people in Russia and show that making a difference and making a profit at the same time is possible. She is looking to find some creative instrument to achieve this goal and make social entrepreneurship and activism more attractive to youth. She believes it could start a chain reaction of change.

Together with two others she has started an NGO called “Goal Number Seven” (GNS), referring to SDG 7, concerning affordable and clean energy. She hopes they can create a form of community around this goal and help people start their own enterprises and campaigns aiming to contribute to this goal.

In May and June 2019, GNS acted as a co-organiser of the ECOCUP Green Talks festival devoted to renewable energy. The keynote speakers of the festival were successful entrepreneurs and activists under 30 years old from Russia, Great Britain and Australia. The next event is planned for November 2019.

Tatiana Lanshina at the ECOCUP Green Festival

Tatiana enjoys working and volunteering in different organisations. It gives her new insights that she cannot get in her research work. She enjoys seeing what is happening in “real life” and understanding what young people are really thinking about. Her involvement in the ReGeneration 2030 movement, together with other young people from Nordic and Baltic Sea Countries, gives her new and interesting perspectives on the SDGs and how we might engage more youth in achieving them. She believes the movement has great potential to make large-scale change happen.

“I think the potential might be huge, especially if we can find practical solutions for young people. We are also discussing establishing local ReGeneration 2030 hubs, in each of the countries, maybe appointing local ambassadors to localise the ideas of ReGeneration 2030. But from my point of view, the most important thing is to develop practical tools that would not only inspire young people, but give them some real power.”

Tatiana is already thinking about ways to address this challenge and she thinks that ReGeneration 2030 could become a key player in helping young people take steps forward. Tatiana is not doubting the potential of the movement and is excited about what is to come. Last year at the first Summit in the Åland Islands, the ReGeneration 2030 manifesto was created, and at this year’s Summit in August this manifesto was further developed and made more tangible.

“The manifesto is powerful because it was created for youth and by youth. That is also why it makes sense to promote it and find ways to put it into action, which is the work we have in front of us. We have to find some real instruments for youth to engage, and that is what is really special about ReGeneration 2030.”

Author: Stinne Friis Vognæs

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