World Youth Alliance Europe has just concluded its 4th Emerging Leaders Conference this year. Having taken place in Brussels from the 27th to 30th of November, the conference brought around 70 young people from all over Europe to discuss with and learn from policy makers and experts about topics under the conference theme Population and Environment: Building a Sustainable World. The conference aimed to provide European youth with accurate information and tools to tackle the challenges of sustainable development and to promote responsible stewardship of the environment.
On the first day, participants attended a workshop in Brussels GreenBizz, an environmental friendly complex where several start-ups are based. One of the architects responsible for the building showed them around the complex and explained the achievements of ¨green¨ constructions. Participants also had the chance to learn about free trade initiatives and the concept of circular economy in Mame Noka Coffee, a small company which roasts coffee from farmers in Africa and Latin America and sells directly to consumers in Europe.
After the workshop, a welcome cocktail was held at the Albanian Mission to the EU, where the participants and other guests were greeted by the WYA Europe Regional Director, Hrvoje Vargic, who gave the opening speech. During the cocktail, there were several diplomats in attendance including the Ambassador of Albania, Ambassador of Finland, and Ambassador of Kosovo who also gave a warm welcome to all the young leaders and wished for a successful event.
On Monday morning, participants were given the chance to present projects, best practices, and ideas in the field of sustainable development. The presentations proposed original solutions addressing issues like pollution, poverty, and health. In the afternoon, participants attended the session at the European Parliament on the topic Fostering Sustainable Development. The panel was made up by MEP’s Alojz Peterle, Arne Gericke, Karl Falkenberg (Former Senior Adviser for Sustainable Development to the President of the European Commission), Catherine De Wolf (Innovators under 35) and Hrvoje Vargic.
Afterwards, participants started a discussion leading to the creation of WYA’s European Declaration on Population and Environment. They developed and discussed their ideas in groups and then presented them to the rest in the general discussion. During the general discussion, they discussed and negotiated on what the common principles of the declaration would be. To top up the day, participants were given a tour around the center of Brussels and enjoyed the local specialities.
On Tuesday, the drafting of the declaration continued, issues like the relation between population and sustainable development were raised. In the afternoon, the 2nd session took place in the EP with the title Sustainable Development and Human Dignity with MEP’s Peter Liese, Marijana Petir, Giovanni La Via as well as Gerard-François Dumont (Demographer and Economist at Sorbonne University) and Kenji Sario (Ibon International) on the panel. The speakers addressed core issues that had arisen during the drafting of the declaration and provided scientific evidence against population control, proving how population growth is not an obstacle to sustainable development but a solution. After that, the participants were taken for a tour around the European Parliament where they gained a better insight of the work being carried out by EU institutions. The day ended with the certification ceremony held during dinner at a local restaurant, courtesy of MEP Marijana Petir. We also had the chance of listening to a Klapa Stine, a traditional group of a capella singers from Croatia.
On Wednesday, the last day of the event, the participants received the training on sustainable development from Antoine Mellado, our Advocacy Director. The event concluded with the proclamation of the official European Declaration on Population and Environment, which emphasized the importance of being responsible stewards of the environment and called upon governments and international institutions to make effective policies to preserve our shared home and to promote intergenerational solidarity in line with the human dignity that we all share.
“The World Youth Alliance affirms that human beings are the earth’s greatest source of potential solutions for authentic development. Their unlimited creative capacities—a reflection of their inherent dignity—enable persons to harness the knowledge and skills which drive authentic development. When we ensure every human has their fundamental needs met, we are equipping people to be creative problem solvers. Governments should support people through just laws, institutions, infrastructures, and decent working conditions. Having those needs met helps people become agents of authentic development.”
—European Declaration on Population and Environment