Farewell Letter by Haila Amin from Stockholm+50
On a not-so-hot summer-day in June 2022, I survived an all-nighter from my assignments from Columbia University and boarded the flight from Newark International Airport to the destination of Stockholm. I, for one last time, was going to participate in the International Meeting of Stockholm+50 on behalf of the European youth as a delegate of Youth and Environment Europe (YEE).
A dream organization I wanted to work for since the beginning of my university studies, Youth and Environment Europe’s mission coincides with mine: promoting the active role of marginalised groups in the political movements and utilising creative educational campaigns to raise awareness of environmental conservation and sustainability.
A surprising interview invitation in my inbox after a long and heart-pounding wait during the recruitment process started my beautiful encounter with a group of dearest colleagues: the charismatic but down-to-the-earth Nathan as the leader of the advocacy group is always able to empathize with the obstacles we face and serves as a role model of what a true leader should be; Pegah, who makes most communications with me during my work, always impresses me with her elegant and powerful disposition as a young professional; and I never forgot Felix and Jessica, who were generous enough to empower me with the ability to apply what I learned from the textbook into the real world in the simplest and most sincere language possible.
With the support and mentorship of YEE, my experience with environment advocacy covers from conducting research and partaking in negotiations on WTO sustainable food system and eco-friendly trade from the European Union perspective, to delivering a speech about my understandings of the interconnected social and bio-diversity to EU commissioner, and to experience myself the actual policy-making process of Convention for Biological Diversity, as a humble college student, youth, female, and nomadic-group minority, I am gradually comprehending my position and responsibility in the environmental movement.
To summarise my Stockholm+50 story in one sentence:
If you are losing confidence in global governance, try to switch your attention to the rising and crucial topic of the environment, and you will find something new from it.
Environmental governance is an area where a developing country can actually play a central role despite the existing hierarchy. Some great examples from Stockholm+50 are Mongolia, which hosted a fabulous side-event on Nature-based Restoration and Colombia, which had a crucial leading role in the crisis in Amazon Forest.
A productive negotiation and important consensus come from the integrated effort of formal interventions and informal conversations in and outside of meetings. On occasions like Stockholm+50, you can not only see senior leaders of member states giving their speeches, interpreters in six UN languages trying to catch words, journalists giving their best attention and countless staff members who are supporting the successful implementation of the meeting, but also, you might observe the coffee chats happening among diplomats, NGO leaders, enterprise CEO in their respective expertise.
COVID somehow made the international policy-making process less mysterious and more accessible: with more recordings from UN conferences and side-events available on online platforms, we can also broaden our knowledge using the most up-to-date primary sources. I still remember the biodiversity workshop that happened in February this year, where I was the coordinator who lead the planning and implementation. I was in French Normandy, amazed by the impressive presentations given by speakers from our collaborating organisations tracing biodiversity’s connection with colonial history, modern politics and future innovations. By the end of the meeting, we lost no one—the participants’ presence was the best appreciation of my effort.
Any crisis that seemed stuck might be addressed by the multi-lateral wisdom stemming from the spirit of collaboration and mutual benefits. An eco-biological startup leader may restructure the scarce natural resources with innovative technologies, green finance investors are utilising data and funding to incentivise and reduce the cost of sustainable transition, and groups like indigenous peoples, women, and youth are breaking the cycle from the window of climate movements.
Every industry, every skill, and every interest group may leave an impact on addressing our inter-generational cross-border environmental challenge. As I leave YEE, my journey in environmental advocacy does not end here—I will continue at my two universities, Columbia University and Sciences Po Paris, exploring how politics, economics and philosophy could intersect with sustainable development.
I would like to end my farewell letter with a quote from my own speech at the roundtable at the European Economic and Social Committee:
Biodiversity to me is an inspiration for the reformation of the social system. A well-connected ecosystem is a basis for organisms to thrive, our society works the same way: a well-negotiated set of policies is needed for a society where our cultural diversity, a plurality of opinions and innovations thrive and our human civilisations flourish.