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  • Writer's pictureIVECA Center

Youth-Led Solutions: Insights from the 2024 UNCSC IVECA Virtual Panel

The 2024 United Nations Civil Society Conference (UNCSC) sparked impassioned discussions and catalyzed collective action towards environmental sustainability. This gathering, which convened global leaders, changemakers, and activists, served as a beacon of hope and inspiration in our collective journey towards a more sustainable and equitable world.

Under the theme of "Shaping a Future of Global and Sustainable Progress," the conference brought together diverse voices united by a common vision: to address the pressing challenges facing our planet and communities. Through engaging panel discussions, workshops, and keynote addresses, participants explored innovative solutions and collaborative strategies to tackle issues ranging from environmental sustainability to social justice.

IVECA hosted the virtual panel, "Empowering Youth through Digital Global Citizenship Education for Environmental Sustainability," bringing together a various array of leaders and visionaries. Led by a distinguished lineup of speakers from various sectors, including government, academia, and the private sector, the session underscored the transformative power of global citizenship education in mobilizing youth towards environmental action.

Throughout this session, speakers illuminated the urgent need for transformative action in global citizenship education (GCED) and multi-stakeholder partnerships to address pressing environmental and social challenges. Dr. Scott Carlin, a renowned advocate for environmental education, emphasized the imperative of empowering learners to engage with complex global issues, particularly within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). His call for regenerative development frameworks that prioritize ecological sustainability and social justice resonated deeply with participants, highlighting the interconnectedness of our global challenges and the need for a fundamental shift in our perspectives.  As Dr. Carlin aptly put it, "part of what we want to do is bring our highest ethical values–our deepest capacities for love–to explore what norms and legal frameworks must now shift to align with regenerative economy and development." 

Building upon Dr. Carlin's insights, Dr. Ghada Ali, an esteemed member of the Egyptian parliament, provided a compelling overview of Egypt's holistic approach to youth empowerment in environmental sustainability. She discussed the critical role of government policies, educational initiatives, legislation, and NGO efforts in equipping youth with the necessary skills and knowledge for sustainable development. Dr. Ali's emphasis on partnerships between government, academia, and civil society echoed Dr. Carlin's call for collaborative strategies to tackle environmental challenges.

Further reinforcing the importance of collaboration among social sectors and the youth, Ms. Ha Nim Ko, a youth representative and former IVECA participant, shared her team's journey in sustainable waste management in Korea. Despite facing challenges such as internet connectivity issues and differing time zones among team members, Ms. Ko and her team exemplified the transformative power of digital platforms in facilitating progress. Her experience demonstrated the importance of seizing opportunities for advocacy and fostering enterprise in young people. Ms. Ko proudly shared that, following their participation, her team members have pursued their careers in the environmental sector, taking leadership roles, and contributing to green initiatives. 

From the urgent global issue of plastic waste management to innovative approaches in addressing climate issues, the panelists continue to collectively emphasize the imperative for concerted action and innovative solutions.

Mr. Levi Grimm's journey epitomizes the transformative potential of youth engagement and collaborative learning platforms. As a high school student engaged in addressing sustainable development goals related to poverty and hunger, participating in the IVECA program ignited a passion for effecting tangible change. Mr. Grimm and his team at Jee Foods tackle climate issues by managing food waste and supporting community welfare. "Our organization has been sustainable for five years because we're asking the question of “why not”. We're thinking about how to look forward, not only in our own community but as global citizens. We see the future as an organization growing to meet the need and driving social change.” The organization’s approach to addressing climate issues through managing food waste further accentuated the environmental benefits and the need for collaborative efforts to address our current crises. 

Dr. Amar Garg's comprehensive overview of plastic waste management elucidated the critical need for efficient waste collection systems and innovative strategies to incentivize recycling worldwide, emphasizing its detrimental impact on environmental pollution. His presentation pointed to the importance of efficient waste collection systems and outlined a visionary approach to incentivize plastic recycling through vending machines. "Plastic conversion to energy is the only sustainable solution for a sustainable Earth. We should focus on converting plastic use to energy," he said, highlighting the potential of greener technologies like Eco Flame’s combustion device for effective energy conversion from plastic waste. 

Moreover, representatives of the 2nd Generation Recycling Energy Consortium Dr. Jinwoo Lee and Mr. Giwoong Choi's insights on building eco-friendly communities through innovative technology brought to the fore the transformative potential of public-private partnerships in implementing green technology for global impact. They stressed the need for all sectors to be involved in this transformation. "The environmental problem is a complex matter and will require various technologies with different stakeholders. In the education sector, the responsibility may be emphasized to students so that they understand the challenges we are facing and have a clear direction and approach to handle those issues," said Dr. Lee.

Dr. Jae Sung Kwak's presentation on integrating economic growth with environmental conservation discussed the importance of innovative approaches and public-private partnerships within the context of global cooperation for development. He discussed successful case studies where public-private partnerships facilitated the adoption of eco-friendly initiatives, such as promoting e-mobility in Cambodia through collaboration between Korea's ODA and private sector companies. Dr. Kwak commented that despite the difficulties and obstacles, sustainability should remain our primary goal. "Integrating economic growth with environmental conservation is utterly difficult... However, we should keep our efforts to harmonize economic growth and environmental conservation, especially within the framework of international development."

In addition to the thought-provoking panel discussions, the conference provided a platform for networking and collaboration, fostering new partnerships and alliances aimed at advancing our shared goals. From youth grassroots activists to seasoned policymakers, every participant played a vital role in shaping the discourse and charting the path forward.

As we bid farewell to the UNCSC, let us carry forward the spirit of solidarity and determination that defined this gathering, recognizing that the future of environmental sustainability rests in the hands of today's youth. We can forge a path towards a future where every individual has the opportunity to thrive, and where our planet is cherished and protected for generations to come.



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