Malmö and Lusaka develop digital toolkit for youth participation in environmental issues

Lusaka in Zambia and Malmö in Sweden have through their partnership found new ways to improve the ability of young people to gain influence in local environmental issues. Based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, they developed a digital toolkit that also makes it easier for other municipalities to involve youth in issues related to climate and the environment at the local level.

Starting in 2014, Malmö and Lusaka have been working together within a municipal partnership focused on issues around the environment and energy. Their most recent project, LuMa Youth for change, was built on the joint ambition to adress the lack of influence among youths in local environmental issues. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child determines that youth and children have the right to be heard on issues that affect them, but the partners quickly realised that this is often not the case in local issues.

Children and youth will have to live long with the consequences of decisions made today in the environmental area. At the same time, they don’t have the right to vote yet and they cannot access the channels that adults have to make their voices heard. Both Malmö and Lusaka have a young population, so here we could see that both our cities faced a similar challenge.

Linnea Uppsäll, Project leader at the environmental department in Malmö

Lusaka and Malmö both saw the need to develop better strategies for the participation of youths in order to make their important perspectives heard. Together, they planned and tested new methods. They also identified appropriate platforms through which the youth could gain influence locally and be part of the local dialogue around environmental and climate issues. The end goal was to increase the capacity of the municipalities to include youth in their work on these issues.

The voices of youths were present throughout the project. During a radio workshop a group of young people from Lusaka broadcasted conversations about the importance of young people’s engagement in environmental issues. The project also learned from methods that other municipalities have used to better include youth groups, such as the Helsingborg youth council in Sweden. In Lusaka, the project has resulted in the ongoing organising of a local youth council, the Junior Council. A plan has been prepared for the council based on workshops with youths and politicians in Lusaka. In Malmö, educational activities have been conducted where new methods for dialogue between youth and decisionmakers have been tried. In Malmö’s Green Student Council, the students have been able to give input to the city’s new environmental programme. Through the programme “Young Ocean ambassadors”, the youth have been able to engage their fellow students on issues around the environment and climate in relation to the oceans, as well as having direct dialogue with representatives of The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and The Ministry of the Environment.

The project learned from other Swedish municipalities, the project group and steering group is here at a visit to the youth council of Helsingborg

The methods that have been tested has been compiled by the municipalities into the Swedish digital toolkit Ungas delaktighet i miljö- och klimatarbete that was launched during 2020. In the toolkit, there are tools that provide guidelines to how other muncipalities can engage the youth, such as a checklist for dialogue with youth and children.

Since we tested different methods in the project, we wanted to share the experiences to civil servants in other municipalities in a way that’s easy to use and develop further. We noticed that much of the current material is very comprehensive, so we wanted to lower the bar and take away some of the nervousness that sometimes exists when civil servants are starting dialogues with children and youth. That makes it easier to get started.

Linnea Uppsäll, Project leader at the environmental department in Malmö

The digital toolkit from Malmö is a good example of how municipal partnerships can produce results that make it easier to disseminate methods and experiences to more municipalities. The toolkit has been spread to other departments within Malmö and to other municipalities through the Swedish network Klimatkommunerna.

A Workshop in the project around youth participation on social issues and reproductive health