An old Kashmiri proverb observes, 'We have not inherited the world from our forefathers - we have borrowed it from our children'. When it comes to environmental decision making, young people have a special right to have their opinions considered, as they are the ones who will be living with the long-term results.

My name is Alan Wu, and I am the UNEP Tunza Youth Advisor for Asia and the Pacific. My vision is for participatory communities - local, national and international - that develop robust solutions in response to the voices of all their citizens. I try to work towards this by representing young people and raising the prominence of youth issues and opinions in community decision making. I work for youth participation and the development of more responsive institutions to facilitate that participation, and to build the capacity of young people to get involved in their own communities.

From where I live in Australia, I am involved in many national and international programmes that promote and facilitate youth participation, including as Chair of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition and as a member of the Advisory Council of the Australian
Broadcasting Corporation. Most recently, I was selected as a delegate to Oxfam's 2004 sitting of the International Youth Parliament. I founded and coordinate Wellspring, an environmental non-profit organization that focuses on educating young people on sustainable consumption issues.

In recognition of my work with Wellspring, the Australian Government appointed me as Youth Representative on the Australian Delegation to the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, the largest UN event ever held. There, I coordinated youth input into Australia's positions on environmental issues, and wrote a number of articles that were picked up by the international media, ensuring young people not present were kept abreast of developments.

In 2003, the participants of the UNEP Global Youth Retreat elected me to the UNEP Tunza Youth Advisory Council, where I also serve as Special Envoy for Young People to the UNEP Executive Director. One of the biggest successes of the Council has been our representation of young people and youth opinion at international environmental negotiations, where, on several occasions, our team has successfully lobbied for the inclusion of text on the importance of partnerships with young people.

 

But we feel that the first step in working towards a vision of youth participation in environmental decision making is the development of knowledge, skills, perspectives and values which will empower young people to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future. So we've been very happy to develop and implement UNEP's own youth participation strategy, which includes several exciting initiatives for young people like us, such as this magazine, the Tunza book, regular UNEP conferences and retreats for young people, and the 'youthXchange' educational campaign around sustainable consumption issues.

There are thousands of young people around the world who are working for positive change in our local communities - and this work is gradually changing the world. Join us!

Alan Wu, 20, is the UNEP Tunza Youth Advisor for Asia and the Pacific. He is currently completing a combined Bachelor of Arts (Political Science)/ Bachelor of Laws course at the University of Melbourne, Australia.

      photo: Australian Government - Department of Family and Community Services  
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