What does a sustainable and inclusive Mediterranean city look like? The youth speaks up!

MedCities organised the workshop "Cities, youth and sustainability" in the frame of the "Youth & Climate in the Mediterranean+25" Virtual Forum organised in the frame of the commemorations of the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration by the Government of Catalonia. 

The workshop helped answering the questions: How can we build more sustainable and inclusive urban environments ? What role do young citizens play and what city do they imagine? 

The Forum, with more than 200 registered young participants, took  place on 9 and 10 december 2020 and counted on the support of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the Assembly of Citizens of the Mediterranean Foundation (FACM) or the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), among others. It contributed to generate dialogue among youngsters and strengthen ties between public and civil society institutions to find common responses to the climate emergency, particularly affecting the Mediterranean region, and to foster young people as agents of social transformation. 

The workshop "Cities, youth and sustainability" gathered 30 young participants to discuss how our Mediterranean cities should look like in a more sustainable future. A first round table debate brought together international and Mediterranean organizations working on issues of urban and youth policies, the fight against climate change, and youth activism. 

Dr. Amin Naguib, director of ClimaMed, explained that Mediterranean cities are part of the global Covenant of Mayors against climate change but stressed that any local plan requires the participation of young people. From the Citizens' Assembly Foundation, Ms Esma Kucukalic explained that climate action is a priority for youngsters and that their voice needs to be part of the conversation at all scales. Ms Astrid Desbojert, managing the project MedNC at the IECD, pointed to the lack of economic opportunities that can generate a lack of trust and involvement. That is why well-adapted local education policies are essential, including initiatives taken by cities. Ms Esmat Elsayed, from Youth Mediterranean Voices, demanded that young people not only be heard but also informed and involved from the beginning and in all spaces. The discussion delved into the strategic position of cities as spaces for social transformation.

The second session of the workshop proposed a participative dynamic about cities' sustainability and inclusiveness, touching base on the challenges, actions taken and key advocacy messages in regards to local governance and participation, environmental management, inclusive and green urban spaces and entrepreneurship and employment. 

A rich and inspiring range of proposals and pledges were shared during the third session of the workshop with the mayor of Dombrouh, in Lebanon, the deputy mayor of Sousse and the municipal councilor of M'Saken, Tunisia, through the word of the reporters. The following are strong messages raised by youth and represent very well the core of a youth-friendly vision of our cities of the future:

  • Cities should seek to grow equitably by distributing green spaces and basic services in order to ensure access for all, also through an ambitious promotion of accessible and sage sustainable mobility.

  • It is in cities where the human footprint is larger and is where action is most essential. It is essential to improve the efficiency in the use of basic but limited resources, whether at the level of buildings or the management of water or waste.

  • Local governments hold a key role in accommodating all the needs and identities of the citizens. We demand all public entities not to expect or wait for young people but to design adapted participation devices targeted to them.

Localized policies targeting vulnerable groups are essential to leave no one behind, we call for the valorisation of all types of jobs and economic sectors and demand more initiatives in the field of formal, non-formal and professional education, also promoted by our cities.