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Young people promoting sustainability

They are committed to a future without poverty and to more environmental protection. Young people explain why they are committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  

AutorinMiriam Hoffmeyer, 13.09.2023
Young people committed to sustainability.
Young people committed to sustainability. © picture alliance / NurPhoto

Lew Töpfer (25) has been a UN youth delegate since April 2023 

Lew Töpfer
Lew Töpfer © Madelina Pipping/DGVN

Globally speaking, our generation is the largest ever: By 2030, half of humankind will be under the age of 25. It is imperative to involve young people when it comes to developing solutions toglobal challenges. That’s why I believe it is so important foryoung people to have access to new technologies and digital media, especially in the Global South. While studying space law and space sustainability at the University of Lüneburg, I was able to attend meetings of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which is when I developed my enthusiasm for international politics.  

I now work at the department for UN affairs at the German Space Agency in Bonn. My fellow youth delegate Ilka Essig and I have just completed a trip through Germany during which we presented the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals at schools and events. During the course of workshops we gathered together lots of suggestions from young people for a better world - from more cycle paths to equal opportunities - that we will be presenting to the General Assembly in September. The UN has already committed itself to achieving many of the things the young people want to see in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals. We, the young generation, must now push for these to be implemented. 

Franka Bernreiter (21) has been a UN youth delegate on sustainable development since 2021 

Franka Bernreiter
Franka Bernreiter © Hannah Weber

I joined the scouts when I was eleven. Clichés about the scouts abound! With more than 60 million members, the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) is one of the world’s largest youth movements, is committed to education and peace and also cooperates with the UN. I represented Germany as a youth delegate at the World Scout Conference in 2021, which is what gave me the idea of applying to become a sustainability delegate. At the UN, my co-delegate Fidelis Stehle and I represent the positions of the German Federal Youth Council, an association of many German youth organisations.  

Sustainable development is about more than justprotecting the climate: Environmental pollution and the loss of biodiversity also pose a threat to our planet, but receive far less attention. The UN environment conference held in Nairobi two years ago was a very motivating experience for me; negotiations on a global treaty to reduce plastic waste were set in motion there. It is to be adopted in 2024. Hopefully it will then be implemented, too! The great majority of SDGs will not be achieved by 2030 if everything just continues as it has done so far. That’s why we must now do everything we can to change the way governments worldwide act. 

Tim Evers (21) is co-founder and publisher of the print magazine “Oldschool”  

Tim Evers
Tim Evers © Laura Hoering

“Oldschool” addresses topics in the areas of politics, fashion and culture that are relevant to our generation Sustainable development plays a crucial role. For the current edition, for example, we interviewed an activist and a psychologist about climate angst. Marine protection, fair supply chains, urban politics and poverty in Germany are also topics that have featured in the magazine. After completing our university entrance exams in 2020, my co-founder Lena Schumacher and I had a lot of time because of the coronavirus crisis, which we used to set up the project. Every edition of Oldschool has one hundred pages. The magazine enables people to engage with our topics on a deeper level than is possible on social media. So far, seven editions have been published, on which a total of 250 young people have worked. 

Thanks to a scholarship from the United Nations Association of Germany, I was able to travel to New York in July to attend the conference of the UN sustainability forum and interview diplomats and ministerial staff there. I’m very grateful for this opportunity. The fact that all states have agreed on the SDGs sends an important signal. Few of the goals have been achieved so far, however, while others have actually seen the situation seriously deteriorate. If there were greater awareness of the SDGs, which after all are about our generation’s future, there would be much more public pressure to implement them. This is where I believe my journalistic responsibility lies.