At 15, I decided I wanted to get involved in an environmental organization that was acting directly to prevent environmental destruction. I found it in 'Green Action' - the name says it all. I'm currently on the Board and Coordinator for International Cooperation for Green Action/Friends of the Earth Croatia.

Having worked on local and national projects for three years, in 2001 I travelled to Borgholm in Sweden to attend the World Youth Conference on Environment and Development. Soon I found myself reading the final draft Declaration in front of the 280 delegates from 110 countries who adopted it. I then decided two things: to focus on sustainable development and to work more at a global level.

 
  'Young people could give a much needed boost to sustainable development by changing their consumption habits'
 

I started a huge regional campaign in southeastern Europe to raise youth awareness about sustainable development and the importance of the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. As a result, the Croatian Government included me in its official delegation for the Johannesburg Summit as a representative of civil society. In South Africa I chaired the International Youth Summit held prior to the main Summit, while at the Summit itself I was one of the coordinators of the Youth Caucus (an informal coalition of youth leaders advocating for sustainable development at international conferences).

I have chosen to work with capacity building - training youth leaders in high-level international processes related to the environment. By doing this I am helping these young people to express their environmental concerns, to make
a difference and to influence decision makers.

 

When I was elected as a Tunza Youth Advisor in 2003, as a link between youth and UNEP, my mission to advocate for youth became even stronger. By June 2004 I was leading the Tunza Youth European Network and a lobbying team of around 30 youth delegates at the European Conference on Health and Environment in Budapest, Hungary. This was the first time young people had been involved in this process but at the end of the conference European ministers decided to create a youth seat on the permanent committee.

I'm currently focusing my energy on climate change and environmental education: climate change because I find it the biggest environmental challenge and environmental education because I see here the greatest added value of youth organizations - using the peer education concept.

As we enter the UN Decade of Education on Sustainable Development it will really make a difference if young people are educated on sustainable development issues - and empowered to act. Young people up to 25 make up almost half of the world population so they can have great influence, not just on political leaders as citizens, but also on companies as consumers. If unsustainable consumption patterns continue young people will pose a big threat to sustainable development while, on the other hand, young people themselves could give a much needed boost to sustainable development by changing their consumption habits.

My message to the readers of this magazine is a favourite quote from Leo Buscaglia: 'Don't spend your precious time asking "Why isn't the world a better place?" It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is "How can I make it better?" To that there is an answer.'

Tomislav Tomasevic is a Tunza Youth Advisor for Europe.

 
         
         
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