Valuing and enhancing youth participation in climate activism in Cyprus

By Olivia Skordi

Climate change has a significant impact on the world’s youth. Rising temperatures, extreme weather events, habitat loss and food insecurity significantly affect present and future well-being. All these changes affect the daily lives of youth, their health, education and economic opportunities. As future stakeholders, young people have a unique perspective and a vested interest in finding sustainable solutions to stop climate chaos.

A poll conducted in 2018 by the Cyprus Institute of Statisticians stated that 63.2 per cent of people aged 18 to 35 intend to abstain from the general elections in Cyprus. Based on the poll, young people seem to have no interest in participating in their country’s decision-making and their future. But what is the young people’s role and position in decision-making regarding the climate crisis in Cyprus, and what are the challenges and opportunities to become more active citizens?

What are the challenges that youth face?

Lack of time: Nowadays, our lives move so fast, with the responsibilities and expectations of society pressuring the young generation to prioritise their education, work and personal commitments. Due to the high demands coming from society on youth, there is no time and energy left for them to engage in climate activism.

Social and political suppression: Society has been age-discriminating youth from their right to participate in decision-making with the excuse that it is not their responsibility but that of their older politicians and experts. This suppresses the enthusiasm, motivation and social change they want to bring to the community.

Luck of supportive structures: Unfortunately, there are no support structures, such as schools, mentors, networks and platforms for the young generation to engage in climate action. Political friction from a young age and involvement in the decision-making process at a local, national and EU level will bring a positive change in society, tackling social boundaries and the wrong perception of the old and young’s role in society.

Lack of representation: In Cyprus, there is no representation of youth in parliament, as by law, the minimum age to participate in the parliament is 26 years and older, minimising participation in decisions that directly affect youth. However, since 2016, the Cyprus Youth Council established the House of Youth of Representatives initiative, where 56 young representatives from ages 18 to 30 meet and discuss political matters, produce policy papers and reports, and conduct effective lobbying with respective ministers and technocrats. This is a step for youth to be more engaged in national politics and demand a future that will include them more in the decision-making process.

What are our opportunities?

The power of youth lies in their ability to mobilise and inspire change. Through grassroots movements, social media campaigns and collective action, young activists are forcing governments and business leaders to listen. Their enthusiasm, creativity and fresh perspectives facilitate the development of innovative solutions and foster collaboration across diverse groups. By engaging with youth activists, decision-makers can leverage their passion and ingenuity to create more effective and inclusive climate policies. Internationally, there are more than 292 identified youth-based movements actively working on the climate crisis to pressure governments to take immediate action.

The EU promotes youth participation through youth conferences, consultations and funds grants to support and engage youth on climate initiatives and policies.

Friends of the Earth Cyprus

Our organisation aims to become a platform for youth to have a voice and involve them in activities through our projects. We currently have two European-funded projects to involve more young people in becoming members of our community and participating in our campaigns.

GreenViDialogue is an educational programme communicating climate concepts using pedagogical tools and participatory video.

Embrace the World project aims to reach out to young people by inviting them to nature-based activities. Materials and tools developed are openly available to all youth, on our website and social media. All you need to do is follow Friends of the Earth Cyprus.

We are also part of the Young Friends of the Earth Europe, a movement created and run by young people. Our volunteers are encouraged to join, learn and experience this vibrant network of activists throughout Europe. Other opportunities include activists’ training, both locally and abroad, where young people can travel and gain lifetime skills and experiences that will develop their growth and enhance their ability to get involved in activism.

Governments, organisations and communities can build a more sustainable and resilient world for future generations by empowering and collaborating with young people. It is time for the young to become part of the decision-making process and consider their opinion significantly as it involves their future and future generations. Institutions and other organisations must provide the space for including and taking into consideration our youth.

Olivia Skordi is a project manager for Friends of the Earth Cyprus