Activist Dunja Trifunović: Youth Have the Vision to Combat Climate Crisis
10 May 2023
ECOSOC Youth Forum 2023
The ECOSOC Youth Forum was a significant opportunity for young people to come together and discuss strategies for elevating their voices and exercising their leadership in advancing the Youth2030 Agenda. Dunja Trifunovic, a member of UN Serbia Youth Advisory Group, was a moderator at one of the forums. She recently gave an exclusive interview to Voice of America which we are now pleased to share with you in full.
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK — Young activists from around the world participated in a three-day conference of the UN Economic and Social Council Youth Forum (ESOSOC) in New York at the end of April, and one of the sessions was chaired by Dunja Trifunović, a member of the Youth Advisory Group organized by United Nations in Serbia.
"The main topics of the conference were sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals," the 19-year-old activist told for VOA.
"These are current and active topics that have inspired a large number of young people to follow this event both at the UN headquarters and online. The very fact that such a large number of young people have shown interest testifies that these important topics are not a detail at a conference, but important issues which young people see their role in. The session I chaired together with my colleague from Barbados concerned the 2030 Youth Agenda and the instruments we have to make it happen."
Voice of America: What are the most important recommendations and ideas that participants proposed in preparation for the SDG Summit in New York in September?
Dunja Trifunović: The key recommendation concerned the role and affirmation of young people, their meaningful involvement in the realization of the mentioned goals, and the promotion of their active participation in public life. The keywords in these recommendations were resources - financial and scientific, as important incentives that would enable young people to properly shape and then materialize their visions and ideas. Young activists pointed out that existing mechanisms should be modified in a sense that they are more accessible to young people. Engaging in formal design and decision-making processes involves, you will agree, perfectly prepared people for that level of task.
Voice of America:The United Nations recently released a report on climate change that is very bleak, and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns that the world is "on thin ice". What is the atmosphere like at climate conferences, when we know that climate goals are not being achieved fast enough?
Dunja Trifunović: The atmosphere is less bleak than the reports themselves, which not only testify that the world is slipping on thin ice, but also that cracks in the ice threaten to cause rapid, colossal damage with unforeseeable consequences. These are unrelenting facts. On the other hand, it is also a fact that today there are countless young people in the world, who have shown incredible courage, skills and readiness to fight with their willpower and desire to preserve this world. When young people from Barbados, the United States, Serbia, Italy and Nicaragua find themselves at a conference, and all of them approach this problem with the same passion, it gives the impression that this force will eventually prevail and succeed in stopping the clock of the universal collapse into which our planet is slipping.
VOA:What did you hear in the moderated session that was most surprising to you?
Dunja Trifunović: Vivid, interesting and dynamic - this is how I would describe our session dedicated to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Each of the speakers gave suggestions related to their professional engagement, made cross-sections and suggested a faster and simpler path to the set goal. The most diverse voices were heard and each of the speakers approached the topic of the 2030 Agenda from a different point of view. For me, the greatest fascination was their attitude towards us young people - cooperative, respectful and stimulating for our further work. Our answer was not lacking either - representatives of the institutions had to notice that we young people, thanks to our goal and vision, managed what the elderly did not manage to do - to break down all national and cultural barriers and show that in the fight for the Planet there is no he or she, but only us all together.
VOA: You have already participated in several major world conferences under the auspices of the UN or the EU, including the UN climate change conference COP 27 in Egypt 2022, and the Youth4Climate event in Milan 2021. Is the voice of young people heard and appreciated enough, has anything changed in the past few years?
Dunja Trifunović: Yes, a lot has changed. If by 2019 we were taking steps that could not be seen with the naked eye, after that each of our swings was a step of seven miles. Today, young people at UN climate conferences have the role of negotiators ahead of their country and are actively involved in policymaking at the global and increasingly local level. All of this was unthinkable just a few years ago. Of course, we are not even halfway there, but every confirmation that comes, and there are not few, is the wind blowing into our sails. Young people are involved in various processes, as evidenced by the establishment of the UN Youth Office, as well as the Youth Agenda 2030, which recognizes us as UN partners and key actors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Voice of America: Participants of the forum were from all over the world and presented various problems. Where do you see Serbia within the larger picture, in terms of both problems and capacities to solve them?
Dunja Trifunovic: Unfortunately, Serbia is a black spot on the map of climate change. On the one hand, we are a developing country, which, like other countries in the same category, does not have enough capacity to adequately respond to the challenge. There may not be much interest, but that's another topic. What it recommends for a serious confrontation with this global problem is the fact that Serbia is warming faster than the European average. On the other hand, as a small country, it contributes only about 0.1% of the world's emissions.
Voice of America: Are young people in Serbia sufficiently familiar with them and committed to the goals discussed at the ECOSEC forum these days? We know that environmental issues in Serbia in recent years have been the driving force behind the biggest social protests, and that people care about environmental protection, but the participants of these protests were people of different ages. Has youth activism increased beyond the political sphere?
Dunja Trifunović: People's deep disapproval is caused by precisely ecological, and not, as one might expect, political and geopolitical topics. This was a very good indicator that deep inside has changed – defiance, fear and until recently only implied support for nature. It became clear that nothing is guaranteed. You want to conserve nature, air and water - show it, say it out loud what you think, take action, invite young people to do something about it. Activism is spontaneously awakened in the depths of society, slowly defining itself and eventually gaining a well-deserved place in public discourse.
Voice of America: The Law on Climate Change was adopted in Serbia in 2021, how much is it implemented?
Dunja Trifunović: The adoption of the Law on Climate Change is only the initial step in establishing a legal framework for taking commitments from the EU Emissions Trading System, which is one of the EU's key instruments for achieving climate neutrality by 2050. It should be added here that we had an empty space of three years because the public debate in 2018 did not result in the adoption of laws. So, the legal framework has been made, and to what extent it will be declarative in nature, and will it make real impact, I leave to the monitoring to assess. Certainly, trotting for EU will hit most economies that will not have enough time to prepare for the challenges posed by the European Climate Law.
As indicative, I cite the fact that the Law did not regulate the establishment of mechanisms for fulfilling the obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. Serbia has not even managed to secure basic obligations under the Convention and the Paris Agreement, such as regular reporting and submission of updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).
Original source: Voice of America, available at the following link.