Young people: the key to resolving global problems

Written by Ella and Finlay, Switzerland, 15 years old

The world is currently facing several new challenges, including climate change; as a result, the planet needs new ideas. Switzerland is starting to become a global centre for young people’s independence. Thanks to the number and range of organisations, young people have plenty of opportunities to express their views and educate themselves to take charge of the future. But intergenerational cooperation is essential to make change possible.

What is intergenerational cooperation?

Intergenerational cooperation is an excellent way of including the innovative views of young people in the decisions taken by global leaders and experts. It is also a way of educating young people: as Confucius said, “knowledge is the key to power”. As a consequence, the aim is to combine young people’s creativity with expert knowledge.

Why is it so important?

We are now starting to realise that young people have a vital and central role to play in global problems. According to UNICEF, “children represent 80% [of the] deaths attributable to climate change, especially in developing countries. Moreover, young people want to have their voices heard: in January 2019, #FridayForFuture events took place all over the world. Thousands of young people in Switzerland gathered in several cities for the climate strike. Roman Guggisberg, Operations Director at the Villars Institute, explains that “in 2050, the leaders will be you [young people] – so you need to get involved now, not later”. In his view, it is simply a matter of “passing the baton to the next generation” – and that’s exactly what young people’s organisations are doing.

The climate: a core issue for young people and adults in Geneva © RTS, 2021

Opportunities in schools

Creating an environmental group at school is an excellent idea for young people who are committed and interested. As a group, and with at least one teacher to guide them, they can plan events and improvements for their institution. Our director of sustainable development at the International School of Geneva explains that his dream is that “Schools no longer teach conformity with the past but allow young people to build an inclusive, sustainable and peaceful future in their own community”.

Activities that open doors

Educational activities or competitions are another way of getting young people to take part. First, we should mention the “Young Reporters for the Environment” programme run by the J’aime ma Planète association, which encourages participants to research and share solutions. Various school projects linked to the Sustainable Development Goals also aim to raise awareness among young people: for example, “Voices of Youth”, a UNICEF platform for sharing creative projects linked to sustainability and the Eduki competition, which sets young people the challenge of finding tangible solutions to global problems. These are perfect opportunities for allowing young people, with the help of professionals, to understand how a business operates or to cooperate with students who share the same ideas.

The “Eco-Crew” at the International School of Geneva organises environmental actions

Young people engage in politics

The COP27 climate summit, held in November 2022, saw the inclusion of the very first official Youth Envoy: Omnia El Omrani. Similarly, Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish woman known for her efforts to protect the climate, has proved that young people can get involved in politics to drive change. In the Swiss political arena, young people can take part in groups such as “Les Jeunes Suisses”, “Le Parlement des Jeunes Suisses de l’étranger” and “La Fédération Suisse des Parlements des Jeunes (FSPJ)”. In addition, they can vote and join an official political party once they reach the required age. There are numerous ways to get involved: Benedick Schmid, for example, is a committed, 21-year-old politician who has been working for a political party from a very young age, and is looking for a job in the cantonal government in Zurich, where he is hoping to improve equality and sustainability. As more young people engage in politics, the question of changing the voting age also arises. Ultimately, we need to reflect on how to get young people more involved in politics and help them to participate, as an important step towards advancing sustainable development and strengthening democracy.

Putting young people in touch with experts

Bringing people with the same passions and hopes for the environment together is no easy task, given the scale of the planet. But in many countries, such as Switzerland, young people can now attend events and conferences that are open to them. Every year, schools and other institutions open their doors to young people and professionals for the purpose of sharing knowledge. Events include the “Villars Institute Symposium”, an event in Villars that aims to put intergenerational cooperation into practice. Another example is the “Youth Forum Switzerland”, an event at the International School of Zug and Luzern, which brings together students from several schools. For its part, the “Geneva Youth Call” is an initiative run by the University of Geneva, which aims to rally young people from around the world to get their voices heard. Finally, “Step Into Action” encourages and motivates young people to get involved in society. The opportunity to share your ideas and listen to those of people like you is a very positive experience and one that is now accessible to all.

Survey on young people’s political commitment in Switzerland (FSPJ, 2017)

Essential action for a better future for everyone

Clearly, our world is undergoing significant change. We will all be affected by climate change and pollution, even in Switzerland, where these issues are currently less obvious. Increasingly, young people are demonstrating that they want to help. Nonetheless, such cooperation between adults and young people will only be possible when the politicians in power open their doors and listen to the millions of voices calling out to them.





  • Roman Guggisberg, directeur des opérations à l’Institut de Villars
  • Jan Dijkstra, enseignant et coordinateur de la durabilité à l’Ecole Internationale de Genève, campus de La Châtaigneraie

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