“Solutions exist, it is up to us to overcome silo thinking”

Excellencies, Members of Parliament, dear Friends, dear Children,

A few years ago I spoke to a young audience in Canada about the global environment, when a teenage boy suddenly stood up and ran out of the room, shouting “Thanks a lot for leaving us a world like that!” So it is not easy to speak the truth about the state of our world to an audience like this.

I call myself a possibilist, for I know that solutions exist. But implementing them will require more allies than General Facebook and Admiral Twitter. Social Media are a great means but change requires power and this means getting engaged in public and political action. There are many examples of children and youths shaming their parents and decision-makers into changing course…

The World Future Council works to establish parliamentary Guardians of Future Generations – and a UN High Commissioner – with the mandate to ensure that our decisions, laws and agreements respect our responsibilities to them. We have developed a Global Policy Action Plan – a first attempt to bring together the key policy changes we need to tackle the major inter-linked challenges we face.

Our Future Policy Award, “the Oscar for best laws”, which we present in close collaboration with the UN and the IPU, last year honoured the best laws protecting the rights of children. The top award went to Zanzibar’s pioneering Children’s Act which includes an innovative programme of community-level child participation and peer-to-peer learning, in line with SDG 16 and 17 on inclusive decision-making. Another award went to the environmental education regulations of Maryland (USA) which mandate that all students must be environmentally literate when graduating, in line with SDG 4 calling for education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles.

Our Youth Ambassador, Kehkasan Basu from the UAE, was honoured by the Voices of Future Generations last year and I am very glad that this project is now attracting exciting stories from young authors in Asia, Africa and Latin America!

The good news is that solutions already exist for the major threats facing us. It is up to us to overcome our compartmentalised silo thinking and start focusing on the “how”, to implement these inter-connected solutions.

The UN SDGs provide an important agreed framework for action. But they contain a basic conflict, as continued economic growth threatens to destroy our natural environment, on which all life depends, long before the poverty abolition goals are reached. We must therefore build societies and economies of sharing and co-operation. There is no alternative, for you cannot negotiate with melting glaciers or spreading deserts.

With sufficient pressure, new paths to a shared, flourishing global future can be opened up quickly. In a crisis big steps are often easier than small steps because they inspire and mobilise.

On this path, you, our children, play a key role for you have not yet been conditioned into silo thinking but retain a sense of wholeness and wonder and (I hope!) a trust that you have the power to change the world!

These powerful books of our child authors provide not just hope that there are different ways but provide practical guides for the challenges ahead. They will help reframe and deepen the debate about our shared future. Thank you very much!

With his speech Jakob von Uexkull adressed UN agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNEP, UN SDG child ambassadors and children from local schools at the Houses or Parliament for the event “Children share visions of a just future” in London. The event was jointly hosted by the Voices of Future Generations initiative and the Mary Robinson Foundation at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. The children offered insightful views on issues such as gender equality, climate change, human rights and access to education and emphasised the need for children to know about their rights, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.