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I want to see my community from another perspective

Iusip, a 23-year-old from Georgia, is currently studying Management Engineering in Poland. He has been involved in the NGO field for three years, establishing his own NGO at the age of 19. Through his organisation, he provided opportunities and assistance to numerous individuals and facilitated participation in projects in Europe.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who’s Iusip?

I’m 23 years old and from Georgia, but now I’m studying in Poland in the faculty of Management Engineering for my bachelor’s. Until now, I have been involved in the NGO field, and when I was 19 and was studying in Georgia, I established my own NGO  with my friends. I have been writing projects, and managing teams for three years, and I got a lot of experience.

How did you first get involved with NGOs?

The first organisation was the “Youth Association DRONI”,  which had a lot of local projects and in Europe. I have participated in some of the projects in Turkey and in Georgia. I explored a lot of opportunities for youth, and I saw that as a member of an ethnic minority in my country, my ethnicity is Azerbaijani. Most people don’t know about these opportunities. So we made a Facebook group, volunteer-based, and we were sharing all these opportunities for three years. There were a lot of people that have participated in these projects and used these opportunities. 

After that, we established our own organisation where we had our own projects. We even got country labels for projects, and we helped people to go and participate in several projects in Europe.

Where did the idea of creating your own organisation come from?

After becoming a volunteer at one of the biggest organisations here in Georgia, I saw that there are a lot of things that youth can do. You can go to another country, explore the country, meet a lot of new people, and gain a lot of skills at the same time. I said to myself: I have to share this with others as well, they must know and develop themselves. So we started with the Facebook group, and we started sharing these opportunities on a daily basis, they were writing and asking us questions, and we were trying to help them with all the matters. 

Then we said okay, let’s make an organisation as well, so we can have our own projects and we can be a sender and host organisation at the same time. And in 2020, we registered and started writing projects, finding donors, and partners for us, and we had a lot of projects during these two years and met a lot of people during this period. Our main target group was youth in Georgia, and especially ethnic minorities, and our aim was to develop and motivate them.

Can you share a bit about one of your projects?

There were several projects, with partners or just by ourselves, but one of the main ones that I remember was ‘ethnohunt’. It was a treasure hunt game for two days, and there were people of different ethnicities. We had training about discrimination and tolerance, and we had a workshop to paint the t-shirts, so you had to paint it according to these topics, like tolerance, and in the next stage, you go outside of the room and play ethnohunt.

Do you think it is harder for minority groups to get recognition and have a space among other activist groups?

Sometimes I feel really lucky because if you are a member of an ethnic minority here, at least you have an advantage in languages. You are in Georgia, so you already know Georgian, you know Azerbaijani, you have Turkish, you study English you already know four languages. Even when I’m going to the projects, there are people from Azerbaijan, Georgia, English English-speaking countries, and I’m able to speak with all of them, even in their own language. There are a lot of opportunities for us as we are people with multiple languages.

But not all people are so lucky, because as you may know, people mostly live in the villages and they don’t have that much opportunity to learn English or learn Georgian. Moreover, the educational conditions are not that good in the regions. 

What’s next for you, and what is your ultimate goal?

“My main aim was to see the community from another perspective, to change them,  to try to affect them positively.”

There might be a lot of negative things in the community if you start discussing it from the educational, social, or even political side, and I was trying to find people with whom I can discuss science or technology. I believe that with all the things I was trying to do in the NGO sector, people were getting more and more developed in different fields. They may be lawyers or IT guys, but at least they must start doing this and look to the global side and try to gain more and more experience to become something different. And to do that, you need to cross your borders, the borders you have inside, and your complexes. I was trying to work against it, against complexes and stereotypes.

“Even just one project can change a person.”

I had experiences like this here as well. Because they have many competencies, speaking in their own language, speaking in another language, speaking in front of an audience, communicating, and many more skills. And even in 10 days, they were coming back, and they were totally changed. It affects their lives, and their career as well, and from that one individual, you can reach the community level, but step by step, one by one.

What’s your advice for people who want to start getting involved? 

My advice would be not to be afraid because I mainly saw situations where they are afraid. Of being alone, afraid of being lost in another city or country,  you can find a number of reasons. They just need to step forward. Otherwise, they will not be able to experience it. 

I always was the person that would step forward first. My motivation for this was curiosity, I was curious about everything. I was going everywhere trying to explore something new, and they must be curious as well, and they must not be afraid of anything. When you are going somewhere, you have never been, or when you are talking to people you don’t know, you are exploring something new, you are adding some color to your picture. It makes your life and yourself more developed and better. That’s basically what I can advise, according to, of course, my experiences. I’m still 23 years old, and I still have a lot of years to give advice.

What do you want for the future?

Probably at this moment, I would like to have peace. There are a lot of kinds, like not having a war, if you are mentally stable, you don’t have conflicts around you… It can have different levels. I just want to have peace around me, and I would like to see the eyes of people with peace. Here mainly, I see people with tired and not motivated eyes, and I would like to see their eyes with more peace.

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Introducing Iusip | Showcasing the Unheard

One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature

The recent positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament sends a strong message on the obligation to restore nature. While the European Union is positioning itself as a global champion in this area, it's important to acknowledge that almost half of the political representatives did not support this initiative fully. Amendments that substantially weakened the law were adopted, which falls short of what science tells us is urgently needed.

Recently we celebrated the positive vote for the Nature Restoration Law by the European Parliament, which is sending a strong message: restoring nature is an obligation. The European Union has put itself on the path to being a champion and pioneer of nature restoration globally, living up to promises made to citizens and at the global negotiation table.

We thank all the MEPs that listened to our perspective, welcomed our recommendations and voted also for the next generations. We want to particularly show our appreciation towards the work and the words of Rapporteur César Luena, who publicly recognized the efforts made by youth in the advocacy for this law.

However, we cannot ignore that almost half of our political representatives refused to restore nature, cold-shouldered the youth and refused to guarantee us a liveable environment. The law is still far from what science tells us it is urgent to do.
We acknowledge with heavy hearts the adoption of amendments that substantially watered down the law. The amendments, especially those that delay targets and the initiation of actions, significantly shift the responsibility and efforts on us in the future. This is not fair from an intergenerational justice perspective, which the EU has agreed to respect as a guiding principle at COP15. In particular, refusal to accept the principle of non-deterioration means that we will continue to witness the degradation of our habitats, and so will our children and grandchildren.

Help us spread the word! Share this statement

“While the unity and the strong, loud voices of young people ahead of the plenary vote on the Nature Restoration Law once again demonstrated the will and drive for positive change, the very close vote showed that this is not the case for a lot of MEPs deciding on policies that will determine the state of the ecosystems we depend on. This law is not only about Nature Restoration. It is about fighting for the continued existence of a liveable planet, which the law that was adopted on the 12th of July, does not do. This is why our work is not done and we will continue to fight for a law that is just - not only for us, but for the planet and generations to come.“

Sophia Ullrich, Liaison Officer on Biodiversity at Youth and Environment Europe Tweet

“Heeding the calls of scientists, young people and environmental activists, a narrow majority of MEPs voted in favour of the Nature Restoration Law during the Plenary of the European Parliament, an outcome that was not guaranteed but one that we celebrate as young Europeans. However, the vote’s close margin of victory underscores the significant opposition still facing the Law. It has been compromised in the voting process and the resulting legal amendments the Parliament agreed upon severely weaken the effectiveness of the NRL in combating biodiversity loss and environmental degradation. We need a more ambitious Law to ensure a future where both people and planet can thrive! Our work is not done and we demand that the Commission, Council and Parliament pass a Law that is as strong as possible and does not put the burden of mitigating environmental damages and economic short-sightedness on future generations.“

Noah Stommel & Fenja Kroos, Project Leads on Nature Restoration at Generation Climate Europe Tweet
european young rewilders logo no background

“The positive vote in the Parliament is a bittersweet success. It is great to see many MEPs that listened to science and young people and to see the EU sending out this message, but the journey is still long. However, laws or not, restoration activities and initiatives have been growing exponentially in the past years. And this will never stop: the restoration and rewilding movement is a snowball in a free fall down a slope, getting bigger and bigger. While politicians discuss in rooms, tons of people, of young people, are out there restoring and rewilding. This is the future. The law is not as ambitious as we wanted it? Then we will be ambitious, and we can be it now.”

Giulia Testa, Coordinator of European Young Rewilders Tweet

“The vote in favour of nature was a crucial and most needed signal to the world.However, the narrow result, the disinformation campaign including blunt claims against all scientific evidence is very worrying for us. Let us hope, that during the Trialogue process some more common sense prevail and get something more ambitious than just restoring Nature 2000 areas. We all, and youth in particular, depend on a healthy environment - and we need to take the necessary steps to ensure them rather yesterday than tomorrow.”

Ronja Fischer, Co-Coordinator of Global Youth Biodiversity Network European Chapter Tweet

“The NRL is the most crucial legislation for european biodiversity of my lifetime. For environmentalists in every part of society to finally have political will on the environments side should be a celebration. But seeing the Law being so close to get rejected and at the moment being so watered down from it's once clear agenda of saving our nature, is a new way politicians have made me disappointed. However, youth will continue our efforts to restore Europe's biodiversity, and we hope one day the elected few will follow the actual will of the people and join us truly in stopping the biodiversity crisis.”

Oliwer Schultz, Coordinator of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network (NYBN) Tweet

“The Parliament's vote can be seen as a positive development, acknowledging the efforts made to secure a more promising future for all. The approval of the Nature Restoration Law reflects a significant stance by EU institutions in support of nature, despite the fact that recent negotiations have led to a dilution of its original objectives. Regrettably, at the national level, we, as GYBN Italy, hold the view that the situation is even more unfavorable, and Italian youth have experienced deep disappointment. Italy should ideally take a leading role in the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. However, to our dismay, nearly all Italian MEPs voted against this vital legislation. This decision by the current political power has effectively disregarded the expectations of young people on almost every level. As a result, bitterness lingers among the younger generations, as they feel unrepresented, signifying that our endeavors to conserve and restore nature will not come to an end with this setback.”

Mattia Lucertini, Coordinator of GYBN Italy Tweet

"Even though negotiations for the Nature Restoration Law will see another day, the picture this whole process has painted is bleak, not only for Europe's nature and biodiversity, but for trust into political officials and democratic processes. Are we supposed to celebrate this small majority within Parliament that barely aknowledged science and the nature crisis?"

Julia Balasch, Coordinator of GYBN Austria Tweet

Read the youth position on EU Nature Restoration Regulation.

The coalition of youth organizations whose representatives released the statements above that elaborated the youth position represents more than 20 million young Europeans.

Learn more about the #restorenature campaign

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One step closer to Nature Restoration – but not yet there | #RestoreNature