This November I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Youth Summit, an international 4-day project organised by WWF. The goal was to raise awareness among Members of the European Parliament about the importance of future EU Regulations to address deforestation and forest degradation, as well as to highlight what the world’s youth, the next generation of leaders, and those most affected by climate change have to say about the current state our planet is in and why ecosystems and indigenous people’s human rights must be addressed and protected now more than ever. As you read this, entire forests are being cut down at an alarming rate for houses, mass production, palm plantations, and other purposes. The natural landscape is shrinking, resulting in a decline in wildlife populations, indigenous peoples being forced out by corporations, and civilians witnessing personally the harsh and extreme effects and repercussions of climate change. According to a WWF report, the European Union plays a significant role in forest degradation, accounting for 16% of deforestation associated with international trade in 2017. It should thus recognise its influence and hold itself and its firms accountable.
We were around 50 motivated young people representing youth from over 17 nationalities at the Summit in Brussels. AIESEC was represented by Ivet Doychevska, Julian Ennemoser, Greta Kämper, and Elina Ivanova, in addition to myself. After getting to know each other, discovering where our passion for climate action and volunteering stems from and how come at least two of the international delegates have already been bitten by lions, we dove into the topic of deforestation. The days were jam-packed with informative seminars and presentations from experts and activists in the subject of deforestation, including Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer from the WWF European Policy Office. We learnt more about the EU’s role in deforestation and heard personally from people in Latin America about how forest degradation impacts them. Of course, the MEP meetings took up a significant portion of our days at the summit. I’ll never forget how the entire room was filled with team spirit as people shared GCPs and BCPs in meetings, discussed approaches, and everyone showed their support when people went to and returned from meetings. We were able to communicate our requests and experiences with 36 Members of the European Parliament, inspiring some of them to address loopholes in the deforestation legislation proposal and support our claims.
But that wasn’t the only thing that happened. We had another large event planned for the conference’s final day: a street action. We sought to raise awareness of forest degradation and the legislative proposal being debated in the European Parliament by dressing up as trees and carrying an AIESEC rollcall through the streets of Brussels.
This was a wonderful experience, and I am grateful to WWF and AIESEC for providing such an eye-opening, action-packed initiative. I’m excited to see our impact expand even further, and I hope that as many of you as possible will learn more about deforestation as it affects us all.
Written By: Olga Yurkevich