Post-COP27 meeting with youth representatives from Serbia

Youth involvement in decision-making related to climate change

03 February 2023
post cop 27
UNICEF Srbija/2023/Vaš

Belgrade, 3 February 2023 - With the aim to encourage the participation of young people in decision-making and policymaking related to climate change and considering the United Nations Climate Summit - COP27, held in Egypt in November 2022, the "Post-COP27 meeting with representatives of young people from Serbia" was held today. The meeting gathered over 50 young people from all parts of the country, interested in the topic of climate change and air quality improvement, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Tourism and Youth, representatives of UNICEF and civil society organizations, the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM) and the youth organization "Connecting". 

In her address to young people and representatives of relevant institutions and civil society, Yosi Echeverry Burckhardt, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Serbia, said that the climate crisis is not a future threat, but it is present here and now.  

"Children and young people are exposed to climate risk, and they will suffer the long-term consequences of today’s climate policies. For this reason, they need to be active advocates of change. To be effective in this role, young people need to be actively involved in decision-making processes regarding climate change and air pollution. These decisions shape their future and only by involving children and young people will we ensure that the perspectives and needs of future generations are taken into account,” said Yosi Echeverry Burckhardt. 

Last week, the Government of the Republic of Serbia, with the participation of UNICEF and in consultation with young people and civil society, adopted a document that sets the basis for continuous and systematic investment in youth development, the "Youth Strategy of the Republic of Serbia for the period 2023 - 2030". Priority areas of the strategy are youth work, spaces for young people, active participation of young people in society, skills development and health.  

Today's meeting with young people encouraged the exchange of opinions on at least two priority areas of the Strategy, namely health and the active participation of young people in society. Ana Repac, Head of the Climate Change Adaptation Group from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Snezana Klasnja, Advisor to the Minister of the Ministry of Tourism and Youth, spoke about the establishment of a partnership between youth and the state in the field of climate change and environmental protection. 

"The strategy envisages support for the development of programs in the field of environmental protection. Through cross-sectoral cooperation and the active contribution of young people, we will work on the development and implementation of youth projects and project for young people, which are aimed at increasing the level of environmental awareness, understanding the importance of reducing air, soil and water pollution, implementing green economy principles, fighting against the negative effects of climate change and the establishing the right attitude towards nature," Snezana Klasnja pointed out. 

The excessive use of fossil fuels is responsible for the warming of the planet, and at the same time is one of the main causes of air pollution. Air pollution harms the health of children and young people and is associated with chronic respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis and asthma.  

Young people in Serbia have become more aware and concerned about air pollution and its impact on their health. UNICEF’s U-Report polls show that young people in Serbia are motivated to engage as air quality agents of change in their communities. To encourage capacity building for active participation of youth in the creation of local and national policies related to climate change and air quality, as well as their activism at the global level, UNICEF and the Government of the Kingdom of Norway supported the attendance of two young activists at the UN Climate summit, COP27, held in November last year. Also, with the same goal, they supported the establishment of an informal group of Youth4Air ambassadors, which united 40 future young leaders, including young people from vulnerable groups. One of the activities of this group is the preparation of the First Youth Declaration on Air Quality in Serbia, which will be presented this year to relevant state institutions. 

Among other young panelists who participated at today's event, was Dunja Trifunovic, a young climate activist and Youth4Air ambassador, who spoke about the lessons learned at the COP27 summit, ways to involve young people in decision-making processes, the importance of participating in international youth networks and the development of the informal network of Youth4Air ambassadors. "Young people from the Western Balkans region should become more involved in international initiatives and become indispensable members of the delegations participating in climate change negotiations. Participation in the workshops organized as part of the Youth4Air initiative and the opportunity to develop the Declaration on Air Quality Protection helps us gain the necessary skills and provide a good basis for taking an active role in society, as well as for our involvement in global youth activism," said Dunja. 

The "Post-COP27 meeting with representatives of young people from Serbia" was organized by UNICEF Serbia and the UNICEF Office of Innovation.

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