Filipino youth leaders are calling on the government to ensure coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery plans will go beyond the “new normal” inasmuch as they should actually push for a “better normal.”
In a declaration dubbed the “Better Normal Youth Agenda,” the youth leaders on Friday, highlighted three key demands as part of the roadmap for a better post-COVID normal: promotion of youth participation within a democratic society; prioritization of solutions to the health, food and climate crises; and placing people at the center of local and national policy-making.
“Young people represent more than half of the Filipino population. We are not just fighting for ourselves and our future, but for the well-being of every Filipino alive and yet to be born. Just as COVID-19 exposed broken systems that need to be fixed, it has also shown us an opportunity to fix not just the pandemic, but bigger problems, such as the climate crisis,” Greenpeace campaigner Kisha Muana said.
“Our future is at stake, the youth are relentless in demanding action—we cannot stand a government that does not listen,” she added.
The declaration is the outcome of a series of consultations with other sectors, including the recently concluded Classrooms for Future (CFF), a virtual advocacy learning hub that aims to develop youth leaders and champions from all over the country.
CFF is organized by Greenpeace Philippines, I Am HampasLupa, Step Philippines, Youth Strike for Climate Philippines, and Greenducation Philippines.
“The pandemic has shone a light on the numerous inadequacies in the system and also our country. Now more than ever, we need concrete solutions to secure our future and that of the next generation as we tackle problems of greater magnitude like the climate crisis. We call on our fellow youth to join us as we seek actions for a better normal. With our future on the line, we cannot stay silent,” CFF graduate Francine Pradez said.
The consultations also showed the youth are anxious about the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, citing how COVID magnified rising threats of militarization, red-tagging and deprioritization of people’s needs.
The youth leaders, however, expressed they remain committed, collectively and individually, “to do our part by being active citizens not only for the benefit of fellow youth, but also for the Filipino people.”
“However, we believe that action from all levels of government, as well as democratic processes that enable people participation in nation-building, are key to realizing the better normal,” the declaration read.
The youth leaders also emphasized the need for the government to put climate action at the center of its recovery plans by crafting laws and national policies seeking a shift to renewable energy, sustainable and resilient food systems, and to ensure green and livable cities that support sustainable mobility, and promote zero-waste living.
Youth Strike for Climate lead convenor Jefferson Estela noted that as a sector that has always been at the forefront of movements especially in the protection of the environment, he believes we “should defy the normal because normal is the problem.”
“We should make a better one for a brighter and greener future for all generations to come; it will start from a just and human rights-based governance,” he said.