Ashley Van Heerden
Ashley Van Heerden
Topic: The Importance of Fostering a Culture of Youth Environment Stewardship and How that translates into 'Youth Civic Engagement', which effects tangible change
UNEP-TUNZA Youth Advisor for Africa, Ashley Van Heerden a former Bayer Young Environmental Envoy for South Africa has been involved in grass roots environmental activism from a young age, starting e...
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Number of questions: [1]
Posted on 02/09/2015 12:15:51
Dear Ashley,
Greetings and Peace be with you.
My question is all about youth involvement in national and international building and sharing. Like in Kenya, youths have from time immemorial been promised to be leaders of tomorrow and future mean they have little or nothing to do with the current affairs in society and yet the old keeps on remaining in the same positions till the same same youths grows old. Is this justifiable and documented anywhere especially in UN declarations and mandates?
Agapetus Mathew Wamalwa (from Kenya)
Dear Agapetus,
Thank you for question.

Youth involvement in dealing matters of an environmental nature is absolutely essential to ensure that we can mitigate the effects thereof and also ensure tangible change for future generations. Now more than ever it is important for our generation to galvanise and make sure that our voices are heard. There are countless examples of young people on the African continent and the world over, using creative and innovative ways to solve environmental problems they face, and changing lives and communities in the process. This proves that as young people we do not need an official position in order to effect change.

The United Nations Environment Programme has made great progress in the inclusion of young people in both regional and international decision making, since the inception of the TUNZA Youth Advisory Council (TYAC) was launched in February 1999 at the 20th Session of the UNEP Governing Council, a long term strategy which gives young people like us a platform to engage with decision makers and stakeholders and have our voices heard. This platform gives us the opportunity to call for increased participation in decisions that will affect young and future generations. An example of such a call to action was in June of 2014 at the Global Youth Gathering that youth representatives from around the world unified their voices in a statement that was delivered to Environment Ministers and leaders from across the world at the historic United Nations Environment Assembly (see full statement http://www.unep.org/tunza/children/pdfs/TUNZA-UNEA_Karibuni_Declaration.pdf) . We “urged governments to act on and not ignore the demands of children and youth”, and “We demanded greater inclusion and engagement of children and youth as active voices in UNEA and also urge more governments to include official youth delegates in future delegations”. There are many such examples of young people calling for increased participation and involvement at high level environmental, conferences, negotiations and fora.

I urge you to galvanise young people in your community, province, country and region. This is where change starts, young people standing together with one voice, holding governments and leaders accountable for their actions and inactions, using resources such as the internet and social media to effect tangible positive change. This is how we lead today, and help change the world we live in today.

I also encourage you to read more about and join the TUNZA network at http://unep.org/tunza/, and witness the amazing work of young people in their respective regions by reading the TUNZA Magazine and visiting it’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/TUNZAmagazine?fref=ts.

I wish you all the best as you continue to make your voice and the voices of other young people in Kenya heard.

Best wishes,
Ashley