Educating and inspiring the next generation of global citizens

19 August 2021

Youth in the Netherlands are getting support to move beyond activism and enact positive social action in their communities.

Camila Capassi leads a group of young students and professionals inspiring Dutch youth to take action against the world’s biggest challenges.

As the world slowly recovers from COVID-19 shocks, young people who continue to face disruptions in education and employment are coming together to spearhead social transformation driven by a new vision of how the future should look.

The Youth Action Hub Netherlands, part of the UNCTAD Youth Network, is an active part of this journey. It’s helping empower young people to develop the knowledge, skills and values to engage their communities and take an active role in building an inclusive and more sustainable post-COVID-19 world.

A group of young students and professionals led by Camila Capassi, 31, are striving to inspire Dutch youth to take action against the world’s biggest challenges and provide them with a platform to engage the world around them.

Stepping up to the plate

“Young people are stepping into roles of community leaders, meeting everyday challenges head-on, driving forward ideas, innovations and creating mindset shifts,” Ms. Capassi said.

So how is the Youth Action Hub Netherlands facilitating this?

Following the principle of social inclusion, where everyone is given an equal opportunity to realize their full potential, Ms. Capassi and her team are focusing on educating youth on the sustainable development agenda, to put sustainability awareness at the core of their personal growth and nurture a vision for sustainable societies.

Future-proofing civic participation through knowledge

To advance youth development in the Netherlands, the group organizes educational initiatives and skills-building programmes in partnership with local universities and the private sector to increase civic engagement by the youth across the country, especially those from minority groups.

One of the group’s projects, Youth Share, inspires young people to pursue volunteer work in areas related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

After the pandemic pushed learning activities online, Youth Action Hub Netherlands started organizing virtual series with experts on topics such as improving urban mobility to create smart cities, streamlining sustainable practices into business operations and financial literacy as a tool for youth empowerment, among others.

“Our goal is to jump-start conversations on evolving ecological, technological and economic contexts and ensure youth are equipped with the skills and knowledge to understand the issues that affect them,” Ms. Capassi said.

To date, more than 200 youth have taken part in the Youth Share virtual interactive sessions. “Our hope is to move beyond activism and spark interest in youth to embark on their own journeys to manifest change,” Ms. Capassi said.

Leveraging the youth’s social awareness and desire to turn things around, the group also launched a collaborative project called “SDG Mapping” within the Youth Action Hubs network to collect data on the progress made towards the SDGs in various countries, develop implementation strategies and create space for sharing best practices to improve the delivery of the 2030 Agenda.

“It’s a collective effort to develop a supporting sub-national mechanism that complements global incentives of monitoring progress towards the SDGs,” Ms. Capassi said.

Driving youth-centric solutions

Drawing from the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2021 sessions on sustaining biodiversity, the hub took part in workshops on building bee houses from circular materials to show how easy it was to conserve habitats for natural pollinators and contribute to a richer, healthier planet.

Over a third of the 169 SDG targets focus on the importance of empowered youth. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the youth can become catalysts for transformative change, move beyond activism and lead the quest for shared solutions, all while fostering a sense of common humanity, leaving no one behind.

In the future, Ms. Capassi and her team plan to focus on raising youth financial literacy within new economies and running skill-building programmes to increase their awareness of their social and economic rights, as well as responsibilities as global citizens.

“Financial skills in particular are important to help young people successfully transition into adulthood and make informed decisions in their future endeavours,” she said.

“Empowered youth lead to an empowered world,” said Ms. Capassi, who will speak at the UNCTAD15 Youth Forum set to take place online from 16 to 18 September, in the run-up to UNCTAD’s 15th quadrennial conference slated for 3 to 7 October.

Created in 2018, the Youth Action Hubs initiative empowers young people to think globally and express their views on matters within UNCTAD’s mandate. It enables them to act locally as game changers in their communities by setting up projects related to the SDGs. Currently, there are 46 Youth Action Hubs worldwide.