Young people are often portrayed by the media in a very negative light – typically through ‘bad news’ stories of ‘hoodies’ and ‘tearaways’ terrorising communities and old people. But the ‘good news’ stories often don’t get told – the ones where young people are leading the way on issues of importance to everyone.
Last week, young people from the ICS (International Citizen Service) volunteer programme gave a clear message to political leaders, based on their experience of volunteering alongside poor communities overseas. The message was simple: they need to take the issue of climate change seriously and treat it as a matter of priority.
At an event in Parliament on 15 March 2013, Progressio and Raleigh International ICS volunteers met with members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Central America, as well as representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development (DFID) and members of the Nicaraguan and Salvadorian Embassies.
They spoke of their privilege at having the overwhelming experience of living amongst local people and working alongside local communities on their ICS volunteer placements in Central America (El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua). This experience directly sparked their solidarity and commitment on the issue of climate change.
The volunteers felt that developing nations have inherited a problem caused mostly by developed nations, and therefore those [developing] countries deserve all the support they can get in order to tackle the problem head on.
Most importantly, their message was clear: young people have inherited this problem of climate change, one that they will have to live with in the future – but it is a problem that they are determined to overcome.
In a world where the media has become more and more sensationalist, stories of young people working towards a better world, with solidarity, with social and environmental commitments, are not the norm. With unemployment, education costs, social deprivation, lack of opportunities, young people face an uncertain future.
But the ICS programme draws on a more positive idea – enabling young people to learn from the experience of working alongside local communities in developing countries in order to realise their potential as active global citizens through action in the UK on their return.
And as the event in Parliament showed, they are determined to change the minds of policy makers on climate change, so that they take this issue seriously and as a matter of priority.
Lizzette Robleto-Gonzalez is Progressio’s Policy and Advocacy Officer on Governance and Sustainable Environment.
Andrew Rosindell MPs (Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Central America) kindly hosted the event at the House of Commons.
Photo: ICS volunteers make a presentation at the APPG event.