The last day of the 2021 edition of the Malta Sustainability Forum, organised by APS Bank, offered young people a platform to discuss their roles within their particular brand of sustainability activism.
Presented by Jo Caruana, CEO and Founder of Finesse Group, the day started with a video highlighting the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
Kicking off the discussion, young sustainability activists set the tone as the panel’s first participants. Explaining their motivation behind their commitment to environmental and social causes were Sophia Kianni, UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisor on Climate Change; Eman Borg, Maltese Commonwealth Youth Ambassador; Steve Zammit Lupi, Environmental Activist; and, Alexia Micallef Gatt, SDG Champion for Peace and Partnership on the National Youth Council (KNZ).
Hon. Miriam Dalli, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, was then interviewed by András Volom, founder of V4SDG (Visegrad for Sustainability), about young activists’ role in the push towards an increasingly sustainable way of life. Minister Dalli asserted that young people are critical when tackling every sustainability challenge. Without them, the effective deployment of policies and measures which address climate change, gender and social inequalities would be severely hindered.
“I’m tired of hearing that ‘the young are our future’,” said Minister Dalli. “The young are not our future; they are our present. They have their own voice, and they don’t need adults to give them a voice. They need to be part of the decision-making process. We will start seeing major change when young people and people with a young frame of mind are in positions where they can push boundaries and challenge the status quo.”
The challenges faced by young women when entering politics and decision-making roles were also among the day’s talking points. For Minister Dalli, the need to address the imbalance in political representation among genders, particularly in Malta, is now at a critical juncture. She encouraged young people – both men and women – to exert pressure to change this.
The panel’s moderator, Gabriella Cassola, Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Centre for Connected Learning, then invited the panellists to describe their motivations in their respective fields. The search for potential solutions to sustainability and climate issues in Iran, her country of origin, is where it all started for Ms Kianni. Mr Borg, who promotes awareness of LGBTI+ rights in Gozo, was deeply inspired by Malta’s moves towards civil union and adoption, and Ms Micallef Gatt described her commitment in education as rooted in teaching young students the principles of environmental conservation and social inclusiveness.
The days’ next international speaker, Vladislav Kaim, UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisor, then discussed how today’s youth can contribute effectively to fighting climate change by giving “frank and fearless” advice to policymakers. “Meaningful youth participation is about recognising youth at the table as professionals, not exotifying them,” he said. “We are not some abstract ‘youth, our future’; we are here and now, and we are ready. Power is taken, not given.”
Mr Volom then brought a new dimension to the debate by describing the hurdles he faced when V4SDG started its activities in Central and Eastern Europe. While promoting the sustainability message is still often met with pushback, Mr Volom commented that the degree of openness to these issues across different sectors of society is increasing. And closer to home, Zebbug Local Councillor Mr Zammit Lupi also described his efforts to develop new green areas and tree planting in his locality.
As the discussion unfolded, Coline Robin brought an interesting feature to the module. The graphic recorder, illustrator and artist created a fascinating illustration based on the experts’ arguments.
Bringing the dialogue to a conclusion, Ms Cassola summarised the topics covered in the MSF 2021’s final day, emphasising the five Ps of the SDGs: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.
For more information about Malta Sustainability Forum 2021 or to catch up on any of the modules presented throughout the five-day event, visit maltasustainabilityforum.com and https://www.facebook.com/maltasustainabilityforum.