Generation Climate Europe (GCE) is the largest coalition of youth-led non-governmental organisations at the European level, pushing for stronger action from the European Union (EU) on climate and environmental issues.
They bring together nine of the largest European youth organisations, representing over 460 national organisations in all EU Member States and over 20 million young Europeans. Youth Time had a unique chance to talk with Alex Canal, Secretary-General of GCE to learn more.
GCE’s goal is to create a united voice to better advocate for the position of youth in European decision-making processes on climate and environmental issues, and to empower young people to become effective climate advocates.
In this piece, Canal discusses how they achieve their mission, measure their successes, to the role of social media in spreading their work, and how 2020 affected their cause.
An Initiative Bridging a Gap
Canal initially explains that GCE was conceived by their initial members as a way to bridge the gap between the EU institutions and Europe’s youth.
He began: “There was nothing that was currently filling this void.
“It came at a time when youth involvement in tackling the climate crisis had been pushed to the fore by the strike movements and it was time to ensure that decision makers took more formal steps to engage with youth on these vital issues.”
He continued: “Bring together one united voice to add power to our messages and encourage more youth organisations to have the climate crisis as an internal priority.”
He also elaborates more about how GCE manages to reach this huge audience – over 20 million young Europeans – with their activities.
“It is difficult to always reach this audience in its entirety and consistently, however there are some steps we take to ensure our reach is as wide as possible.”
GCE’s member organisations are closely involved in the work of GCE with their projects, campaigns etc.
As expected, the role of social media in spreading their work is very crucial.
“We use social media as best we can to cross post and share information from GCE on our member’s channels, but also use GCE as a platform to highlight the work that is being done by our member organisations.
“We also create links to our member organisations at multiple levels, they are represented in the Board, but we also have a number of volunteers who come from member organisations.
“This helps to spread awareness of GCE’s work and create multiple opportunities for collaboration.”
Canal shares that sometimes it is difficult to measure advocacy success as they are one voice among many other organisations and individuals calling for the same things.
“Success is finding collaborations with other organisations to create stronger campaigns and work in areas that we would not previously have been conscious of. On the position of youth, we try to create spaces that youth can fill”.
For instance, he mentions the EU Presidency Youth Dialogues that GCE hosts.
“Empowering of young people comes mainly through GCE’s volunteers. We try to ensure that they have ownership of their projects and campaigns from inception to implementation.
“Success can be measured with the number of volunteers, projects, campaigns and the reach that they have. Internal reflections are also useful to see what still needs to be done to facilitate the work of our volunteers.”
2020 has affected all of us in one-way or another. GCE too had to cancel some physical events due to the spread of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, it has also been time for Generation Climate Europe to develop and build up expertise on core issues so that they can better speak and advocate on them.
“It has been a difficult time for all, but we have not lost sight of our goals and have continued to work towards them, which will continue in 2021.”
The Role of Youth and Technology
He asserts that youth participation is beginning to be normalised and they are seeing the institutions begin to actively reach out to youth.
“This is still not at the level that it needs to be and is still a rarity. It is important to continue to engage with everyone, as it is too easy to stay stuck in a green bubble, with people who share the same opinions.
“We need to continue to take the challenge of having difficult conversations to bring more people together to tackle the climate crisis.”
Something we could not go without mentioning is operating in a constantly changing world of technology and how they manage to bring together people from different cultures and countries.
Canal highlights: “GCE has a simple message and goal, one that is not limited by borders or culture.
“This brings people together. We are not doing anything in this regard that our members have not already done and it is important that GCE uses its members’ expertise to strengthen its work.”
Technology has been an asset for them, particularly with the circumstances this year presented and has allowed them to continue the work.
As a conclusion, speaking in more general terms, he explains what are some of the biggest challenges and shortcomings faced by youth today.
“It is the time-frame that we are faced with. Having our voices heard among all the stakeholders vying for position. Breaking away from a singular youth identity and giving spaces to youth demographics whose voices are marginalised.”
Follow Generation Climate Europe on Instagram to see some interesting insights regarding environmental issues.
Photos: Generation Climate Europe
Do you want to read about another organisation doing important work on raising young leader’s voices globally? Check THIS out.