Young People Faced with Climate Change in the Mediterranean and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Short Stories by 10 young writers
Josep Ferré, Director General of the IEMed
Giving young people a voice is the driving force for changing narratives and contributing to a culture of peace and security in the Euro-Mediterranean region. “A Sea of Words” fosters the participation and knowledge of young people in terms of the political, socioeconomic and cultural environments, as well as their challenges in the countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and European Union.
The project “A Sea of Words”, organised by the IEMed in collaboration with the Anna Lindh Foundation and its national networks, was launched in 2008 with the aim of helping to promote cultural dialogue, and exchange of knowledge and experiences of young people through short stories. With these stories young people have the opportunity to freely express their ideas and visions, their concerns and hopes, and also reflect different local and international traditions.
This project is aimed at exploring new approaches to intercultural dialogue that lead to an openness in our social environment, to end stereotypes and to help promote more dynamic and diverse societies in which young people, as the future generation, can play a significant role throughout the learning process that involves mutual knowledge of the different cultures that coexist in the Euro-Mediterranean area and also in our own societies.
In the thirteen years since the launch of the contest in 2008 until the current one in 2020 there have been 2,839 stories written by young people aged between 18 and 30 from both shores: 1,345 from Northern countries and 1,494 from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries. These stories are selected by an international jury made up of Elisabetta Bartuli, Jamila Hassoune and Pere Antoni Pons, joined each year by the winner of previous contest, who this time is Bartlomiej Juszczak.
Over this lengthy period the following themes have been explored: “Intercultural Dialogue” (2008); “Building Bridges of Trust to Overcome Conflicts” (2009); “Towards Fairer Equality in the Mediterranean” (2010); “Paths of Participation: Democracy and Citizenship” (2011); “Youth Future and the Dialogue between Generations” (2012); “Building Citizenship in the Countries of the Euro-Mediterranean Region” (2013); “Young People Combating Hate Speech Online ” (2014); “The Future We Want Demands Sustainable Development” (2015); “Combating All Forms of Violence Against Women” (2016); “Youths, Stereotypes and Radicalisation” (2017); “Memory and Identity: Rethinking Cultural Heritage” (2018), “Young People’s Commitment to Social Change” (2019) and “Young People Faced with Climate Change in the Mediterranean and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (2020).
Although climate change has a global impact, the Mediterranean, the second most biodiverse area on the planet, is one of the main affected areas. The effects of warming in the region are clear and become evident with the increase in the frequency of extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts or floods that threaten its natural resources and rich fauna and flora. Therefore, both shores of the Mediterranean share common challenges, as well as an immense potential for sustainable development and there is a clear determination on the part of young people for a paradigm shift and social transformation towards more sustainable and environmentally responsible and committed models.
Alongside all the suffering it has caused, Covid-19 has further widened the inequality in our respective societies and urges us to consider the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. In this respect, the short story is a tool that enables us to take a close look at ourselves, and express profound convictions and experiences. This provides a personal, historical and anthropological vision of human complexity that puts similar life realities on the same level regardless of geographical or cultural distances.
For this reason we are pleased to share with you now the stories of the ten finalists selected by the jury for the 13th “A Sea of Words” contest. In 2020, exploring issues related to climate change and the 2030 Agenda, 136 contributions have been received from both shores: 78 from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and 60 from the northern shore. In the stories, young people share their specific social realities and express their concerns, as well as their shared activities and individual wishes to improve environmental protection and bring about sustainable development.
The third prize has been awarded to Marwa Melhem, a young man from Syria who, through the story “Life after Death”, talks about the devastation in Syrian cities caused by the ongoing war, the death of hundreds of thousands of people and the demolition of entire neighbourhoods, as well as the aftermath of this destruction in terms of great pollution and toxic and contaminating emissions, nevertheless sensing a new possibility for the future.
Anja Tomljenović, from Croatia, wins second prize this year with her story entitled “Look at the Voices”, which gives us a vision of the activism of the young students of the Academy of Fine Arts and Academy of Dramatic Art of Zagreb and their belief that equality is a prerequisite for creating solidarity and understanding in society.
The young Italian Jonathan Ezio Olandi has won first prize with the story entitled “The Silence of the Mountain Peaks”, a story that reflects how the passage of time affects the ecosystem and the lives of farmers, so he insists through well-written prose on the importance of protecting homes to achieve sustainable development.
The Covid-19 pandemic has, for the moment, prevented the ten young people selected from attending the awards ceremony in Barcelona for this latest contest, which, nevertheless, we want to hold in 2021. Meanwhile we encourage you to read these stories that introduce us to the places, frustrations and great desires of the young authors.