Youth want a digital future that’s greener and more inclusive for all, representatives from the 21 APEC economies say.
On Wednesday, as part of APEC Leaders’ Week 2021, three Wellington-based delegates virtually presented a document declaring young people’s aspirations to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The declaration is a summary of what nearly 1 billion youth in APEC countries — represented by 124 delegates — want to see from their leaders.
Among their asks include better cooperation to combat Covid-19, and advances in digital accessibility and education, the environment, and the prioritisation and inclusion of marginalised people.
They also called for more ambitious climate change targets, calling for carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2040, rather than 2050 as set out by many countries.
“Right now, we are at a crucial junction,” their declaration reads.
“We are in the midst of many challenges, also bringing a rising tide of opportunity to build resilience, to enhance equitable outcomes and access to education, to value and develop connectivity, to centre sustainability, and to cast a lens of collective wellbeing of our environment, society, and future generations.”
Ardern said the declaration contained “many creative and insightful ideas” for APEC leaders to consider.
“Today’s Voices of the Future Declaration shows how much these issues raised matter to young people, and is a reminder that it will require the collective action of us all to help ensure the best outcomes now and for the future generations to come,” she said.
Addressing the APEC Voices of the Future Summit, an annual event that brings together 18 to 24-year-olds, Ardern said it was important for young people to remember that “[they] are powerful” and can hold their leaders to account.
“We often have a view that it’s only influence, money or voting — those are the three tools that influence the decisions made in this environment.”
Ardern said that belief wasn’t true and that young people had influenced her Cabinet’s decisions in the past through protest, letters, and campaigns.
New Zealand’s youth representatives are:
- Sophie Handford, Kāpiti Coast District councillor and 2019 coordinator of the School Strike 4 Climate
- Lit Wei Chin, Auckland Unlimited climate change and sustainability executive
- Jess Jenkins, of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and national co-ordinator at Race Unity Aotearoa
- Shisla Macleod, a graduate policy analyst at New Zealand Customs.
The full youth declaration can be found on APEC's website.