The Future We Want Demands Sustainable Development
Senén Florensa, Executive President, European Institute of the Mediterranean
In 2015 we celebrate the 8th year of the project A Sea of Words, promoted jointly by the European Institute of the Mediterranean and the Anna Lindh Foundation. The objective of this contest throughout these eight years has been to help foster dialogue between the countries of Europe and the Mediterranean through the exchange of experiences and knowledge between youths. This year we wanted to support the EU initiative that has declared 2015 as the European Year for Development to open the door to the exciting and multifaceted world of development cooperation. This initiative has fostered projects of very different kinds, and has enabled the countries involved, both North and South, to share experiences of the issues that make up the broad concept of sustainable development. They are all available on the website https://europa. eu/eyd2015/es.
Yet another year, the European Institute of the Mediterranean wishes to promote this exchange of experiences and cultural dialogue through writing, in a contest aimed at young writers who have created stories about development. The chosen theme, “The future we want demands sustainable development”, and the reflection provided by writing can help raise awareness of the need to cooperate to achieve a future that is better, more sustainable, more connected to nature, and more hopeful for future generations. Young people can feel like repositories of our planet’s wealth, and they are the ones who must understand that development goes beyond borders and undeniably involves cooperation between countries.
We have received around 200 stories by youths who approached this highly versatile concept of development, and the possibilities of citizen collaboration and awareness-raising. There are stories that explore human development, some that tackle the theme of sustainability, and others that focus on warning the reader about the need to respect the environment in which we live. This diversity of themes and nationalities (the almost 200 youths are from 25 different countries) renews confidence in the idea that youths are aware of the possibilities of dialogue and cooperation, and of the responsibility involved in using the tools this gives us to create a better future, which means fairer wealth distribution. In total, since its creation, the contest A Sea of Words has had the participation of over 1,800 young writers from Euro-Mediterranean countries, of whom around 60% are female.
The richness that comes from the different cultures and traditions boasted by the Euro- Mediterranean area is worthy of being considered one of the most valuable sources of heritage around us. Therefore, the possibilities provided by development must be used to improve the everyday life of citizens, always respecting our fellow humans and nature. We must all take advantage of the opportunity offered by cooperation to understand others better, learn from them and their needs, and work together for sustainable and peaceful development. In this respect, the winning stories of the contest seek to promote the teaching and dissemination of this cooperation and of the possibilities of sustainable development. Many of the stories received show young people’s concern for their environment, which we hope will be reflected in the 21st Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December 2015.
The three young winners of this year’s A Sea of Words have expressed the spirit we have tried to encourage at the IEMed very well. The story “The Seagull”, by Georgios Ampatzidis, set in Athens, introduces a young writer at the height of the creative process working through the difficulty of writing ‒ without being discouraged ‒ about the crude reality of the inexorable march of pollution. The second winning story, “Plastic”, by the Bulgarian Slavena Zaharieva, endeavours to call the attention of citizens and politicians to the damaging consequences of not taking care of the environment. The third award goes to the story “Different Similarities” by the Kurd Halil Ecer, who reminds us that development begins with a basic attitude: the willingness to listen to and learn from others, to see difference as a source of wealth that makes us grow and evolve.
Therefore, the 17 stories selected in this 8th year of A Sea of Words show the important need to ensure the acceptance of sustainable development, which abandons the logic of maximum profit and strengthens equal participation in prosperity and respect for the environment. That is why at the IEMed and the Anna Lindh Foundation we will go on working to this end, using all the instruments available to us to try to give young people in the Euro-Mediterranean region a future full of possibilities.