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Lithuania has to show the world that we care

Rugile, who has represented Lithuania at a world-class event: our country has to show the world that we care

Image source: © Canva / Canva
Materiały Prasowe,
01.12.2023 18:52

It would be great if today every young person cared about planet Earth; however, not everyone thinks about the consequences and impact of their actions on the planet and others. Thankfully, there are examples that can inspire such indifferent people because the most inspiring things are actual experiences and stories heard straight from the horse’s mouth.

Everyone is concerned about the same things

Rugile Matuseviciute, head of the Sustainable Lithuania initiative, journalist, and host of the podcast Unpacked, has told DELFI readers about her relation with sustainability and ecology time and again, but her activities and persistence make Matuseviciute an interesting person to talk to every time. Recently, on November 14–15, she represented Lithuania at the 13th UNESCO Youth Forum, which, according to her, took place within the framework of the 42nd UNESCO General Conference.

"Both events are biennial and rally representatives from all over the world. The Youth Forum is being organized since 1999," she said.

According to her, delegated representatives that participate in the forum get unique opportunities.

"During the forum, they can discuss relevant global issues and innovative ideas to tackle them, share opinions, offer specific solutions to UNESCO, and build connections," she explained.

Matuseviciute added that every year a new relevant topic is chosen for the forum.

"This year, the focus was on the social impact of climate change on communities worldwide. There were 170 participants from various countries. I had the honour of representing Lithuania. UNESCO comprises 194 countries, so the majority (87%) of the representatives came," she said.

Even though the variety of participating countries is huge, their representatives perfectly understand one another and know that they have one common issue and goal.

"The youth all over the world care about their future and well-being in the context of the climate crisis. The decisions that are being made now will have a direct influence on our health and well-being, that is why it is important for us to express our position that climate change has to be dealt with ASAP, by making crucial and sometimes uncomfortable decisions," she added.

According to Matuseviciute, when working together, different cultures, languages, and opinions are not a problem.

"At an event of such scope, you quickly realize that, despite cultural differences, we all care about the same things: equality, inclusion, preservation of biological diversity, decarbonisation, pollution reduction, and safety. These are the key goals of sustainable development, and even though decisions have to be unique in every country, these goals and ideas unite us," she stated.

Requirements for delegation

The UNESCO Youth Forum attracts impressive numbers of participants every year. However, not anyone can attend. As Matuseviciute explained, all UNESCO member states can delegate one representative.

"The selection procedure is carried out by local UNESCO commissions, which follow the requirements set by the organizers. First of all, the delegate has to be accomplished or active in the field that the Youth Forum is centred around on a given year. This year, as I have already mentioned, the topic is the effect of climate change on social processes," she reminded.

And this is just the beginning.

"As you can tell from the title, the delegates have to be of certain age (18–35 years old). Another important requirement – not be employed at a governmental organization during the delegation. The Lithuanian National UNESCO Commission asked me to represent Lithuania, having considered my knowledge and experience in this year’s topic, my activities related to Sustainable Lithuania, the podcast Unpacked, journalistic work at COP27, the moderation of various related events, as well as my education, and consistency with other requirements," Matuseviciute noted.

According to her, the forum itself comprises several parts, thus there is enough time for serious work and useful connections.

"The event began at UNESCO’s headquarters. Part of the Youth Forum was dedicated to the speeches of activists from all over the world and discussions about the engagement of youth in problem solving. Then we met with the so-called Youth Ministers – official representatives of authorities, acting on behalf of the young generation and its interests," Matuseviciute recalled.

Although the remaining part of the forum is intended for the improvement of the recommendations document, at events like this it is very important to spend some time to get to know your colleagues, Matuseviciute stressed.

"Making acquaintances and communicating with other participants is vital; therefore, a considerable amount of time is spent on cultural exchanges: from the so-called brain battles to concerts, swimming on the Seine, etc." she said.

Youth Forum’s ideas and goals

As Matuseviciute has already mentioned, this year’s Youth Forum focused on the social impact of climate change on communities worldwide, and one of the main goals was to create recommendations for all members of the United Nations in order to combat social issues related to climate change effectively.

"Also, the delegates prepared the Call To Action document, which urges to stop climate change immediately, move to energy from renewable sources, and ensure social wellbeing and justice for future generations," she shared.

As Matuseviciute pointed out, the most pressing issues and topics come to light precisely during personal interactions with representatives of various countries.

"During such conversations, we help each other understand better what problems plaque the societies of other countries, e.g. discrimination, oppression of local communities, deforestation, or air pollution. The possibility of hearing what other countries are facing is truly eye-opening," she admitted.

And the differences do become apparent.

"At this forum, the differences between what each country sees as a priority topic are very clear. For example, in Lithuania there is no such thing as the oppression of indigenous people, unlike in Brazil or Fiji. Conversely, for countries in other regions, such issues as sustainable energy independence or decarbonisation is not as relevant as it is to Europe because their total emissions are lower than ours," Matuseviciute continued.

According to her, it is important to acknowledge that all topics and issues are equally important, but we also have to understand that there can be no single way to tackle the climate change crisis.

"We have to look for collective and comprehensive solutions that encompass the interests of all the member states. The opinions of the participants mostly diverge on how such events should be organized. While some delegates support the diplomatic format, others see such meetings as limiting and preventing from effectively sharing stories and positions," Matuseviciute shared.

According to the Lithuanian delegate, some participants actually think that such meetings and the preparation of recommendations require a lot of resources for minimum results.

"Several countries refused to send delegates to this year’s Youth Forum, claiming that the voice of the youth is not heard, and the recommendations prepared by delegates are ignored," she claimed.

Lithuania has to show the world that we care

Matuseviciute’s decision to participate in such a world-class event and represent Lithuania was a bold and, most importantly, civic move. Since she is creating stories and telling people about climate change and sustainability at work, this forum was an opportunity to draw ideas and stories from all over the world.

"I consider this the event’s greatest value. Sure, the possibility of seeing how things work behind closed doors at UNESCO was a very interesting experience as well," she admitted.

Besides building personal experiences, today Matuseviciute can also proudly say that, thanks to her, others see Lithuania differently.

"Of course, I want to represent Lithuania and show not only our active involvement, but also share our best practices. We have initiatives that truly inspire others: from rapid transformation of green energy and a clear policy regarding human rights to multiple educational projects on climate change, etc." she stated.

However, the most important thing is to make sure that Lithuanians understand and value these achievements.

"First of all, Lithuania has to show the world that we care about climate change and that we want to be (and are) part of the solution. Active involvement in such forums demonstrates our clear position that climate change is a priority to us. In addition, we have a lot to learn from other countries: from practical solutions and strategical actions to global ideas. Such events allow gaining knowledge and effectively exchanging ideas," she concluded.

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