Turning youth dialogue into action

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks on stage during a demonstration in front of the cityhall in Hambourg, Germany, on March 1, 2019.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks on stage during a demonstration in front of the cityhall in Hambourg, Germany, on March 1, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

On March 15, climate strikes were held in over 2,000 places across more than 120 countries. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, 16, is a clear inspiration to the youth and her #FridaysfortheFuture #ClimateStrike movement is a timely reminder that the youth landscape is shifting.

Singaporean youth are also concerned about the changing climate. But instead of striking, they have used social media to drive campaigns, organised capacity building workshops, and are having conversations in partnership with the Government and stakeholders.

Increased traction can perhaps be attributed to last year's Year of Climate Action. In 2018, there were more than 800 climate action events and over 340,000 pledges. Coupled with the efforts of the National Youth Council Singapore's Youth Conversation dialogue series to engage and empower youth, this has led to more meaningful youth consultation and better understanding of the Government's environmental policy considerations.

Young people here want to take greater ownership of engaging and promoting their perspectives on climate action. This should be seen as a positive development.

A Youth Conversation on Zero Waste or Zero Action: You Decide in July last year saw 50 young people discuss ways to reduce consumption and production of waste.

It was an excellent introductory-level platform for the youth to meet and make connections.

The next step is for them to have a tangible voice and stake in policymaking. This is timely, as the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste.

Youth conversations need to be translated to youth actions. I am heartened by Senior Minister of State Sim Ann's announcement that the Government is launching the SG Youth Action Plan to expand on the Youth Conversations dialogue series (Action plan to give youth more say in shaping Singapore, March 9).

While we know that collaborative action and partnership are necessary, trust between youth and institutions is key. The question is how much time is needed for that trust to be nurtured, and whether this can be done in a safe space for all. Hence Youth Conversations and the upcoming SG Youth Action Plan can play significant roles as platforms to do this.

Melissa Low (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2019, with the headline 'Turning youth dialogue into action'. Print Edition | Subscribe