Barasa Daniel: How amazing was the “UN Youth Champions for Environment and Peace programme”
Text from Daniel Barasa
It has been so long since I was free, felt at home, and did not worry about how others will misunderstand or think about me. I have met many activists and participated in several networking activities here on the island, but I had not gotten yet a chance to meet people in my age group with this kind of unique and exceptional mindset.
To me uniqueness is diversity, uniqueness is equality, Uniqueness is self-awareness, self-belief, and passion, and Uniqueness is bravery and the willingness to create or advocate for sustainable positive impacts. You may ask yourself; how did I find out or spot the uniqueness in this exceptional team?
Honestly speaking, how each of the members positively presented themselves, how they interacted with each other in break times and during discussions on given topics, sharing several ideas, etc. yet they are from different communities on the island. This is extraordinary.
The ability to forego the mindset that our societies implant in us and choose to come together to network and champion a better and more sustainable world for us and for the next generations irrespective of our differences. This is already awesome. The passion and willingness to create an impact directly reflect in the eyes of each youth in this amazing team.
Sharing knowledge in such a diversified way through workshops led by UNEP and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, simulation games on climate action by Climate Interactive as well as a panel discussion of environmental activists from Cyprus, Ghana, Zimbabwe, the UK, Israel, Palestine Ukraine, Turkiye, and Moldova was so motivational and inspirational.
Two weekends of networking and sharing knowledge and ideas. Special thanks to UNFICYP and your cooperation with the British Council Cyprus for organizing this program with a focus on environmental peacebuilding and climate activism. Special thanks to our facilitators and whoever played any role whether directly or indirectly to make this happen.
I remember when the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, Colin Stewart, stated: “We know that protection of the environment can bring youth, civil society, and experts across the divide together. The environmentalist movement is perhaps one of the most promising channels to help bridge the divide between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and build an open dialogue." This gave me a feeling of acceptance and immediately felt welcomed. Because I’m a person who believes so much in passion and creativity utilization in creating positive and sustainable impacts in our communities.
Relating it to the values that define me
Just like I always say, to truly, effectively, and sustainably champion environmentalism, equality, and inclusion in my village back in Eastern Uganda, the first step is food security and creating employment opportunities. Everyone is almost aware how deforestation, substandard farming methods, domestic violence, gender-based violence, child abuse, forced marriages, etc. are bad, but due to desperation for survival, everything is okay because nothing has been practically implemented. Here policies can never be effective.
The ability to creatively create tangible goals to create a bridging factor to the main goals is how I define creativity utilization. Which most activists ignore. I can give you another example, everyone in Cyprus is aware that racism and racial profiling are bad, but do you know why these still exist.? Do you have ideas on how we can overcome these social challenges? Of course, an average activist would say ‘’let’s create awareness’’ let's ‘’demonstrate’’, let's ‘’amend policies, increase fines’’, etc. All these are just useless. Let me explain to you why.
Racism is one of the social challenges caused by negative perceptions, hate, insecurities, and stereotypes in our communities. Demonstrations, strict policies, etc. can never be a solution they just increase the problem. The best solution could be creatively linking immigrants to the community; teaching them local languages, free education, involving them in solidarity activities for example lifesaving, first aid, etc, and giving them opportunities to represent the country in sports, etc, with time these will change the mentality of both the locals and the immigrants.
My final message
I feel so proud to be part of this amazing team, I feel much more motivated, inspired, informed, and sharpened, I now see many ways to polish my ideas, and where and how to present them to specific stakeholders. My level and quality of activism positively increased.
To my fellow activists; let's go for it! Let's change the world! Let us make the world a better place for us and for the next generations!