We are at a turning point in human history, facing major existential crises. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine raises the risk of a nuclear weapon being used to a level not seen since the Cold War. And the climate crisis is accelerating. Amid these crises, it is the most vulnerable people who are most affected.

In this context, the UN Future Summit will be held for the first time in September to strengthen global cooperation and reinvigorate the multilateral approach to address these challenges. It will be a unique opportunity to change the course of humanity towards a world free of violence, where no one is left behind.

Given the Summit, we decided to organize the “Future Action Festival” together with some Japanese civil society and youth-led organizations to strengthen solidarity for a non-violent and sustainable future.

The Future Action Festival Organizing Committee was established in the summer of 2023 with representatives from six organizations, including GeNuine, Greenpeace Japan, Japan Youth Council, Kakuwaka Hiroshima, Youth for TPNW and the youth of Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Among the global challenges, we decided to focus on two of today’s greatest existential threats: nuclear weapons and the climate crisis.

The involvement of young people in these issues is more important than ever, but they also need to understand that they are agents of change. This is not a summit, but a ‘festival’ of, with and for young people, celebrating the joy of youth united for a better future.

Future Action Festival poster. Image: Yukie Asagiri / INPS Japan

To create a unique event, the committee contacted as many stakeholders as possible. Throughout the process, the festival involved a wide range of stakeholders, including NGOs, the private sector, artists, and UN representatives.

Corporate involvement played an important role in making the festival possible and in raising awareness in the private sector. For example, the Japan Climate Leaders Partnership (JCLP), which brings together more than 240 companies committed to zero emissions, agreed with the purpose of our event and helped us set up the organizing committee. Finally, the sponsorship and participation of more than 160 companies not only provided financial support for the event, but also opened up new opportunities for corporate involvement in the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The festival included entertainment by professional singers, comedians, YouTubers, and bands. The active involvement and promotion of the event by the entertainment sector mobilized many people, even those with little interest in the issues, making the event uniquely attractive.

Finally, the engagement with the UN broadened the scope and possibilities of the festival. For example, one of the main supporters and partners of the event was the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Tokyo. From the very beginning, UNIC helped us gain credibility with various stakeholders, especially businesses and artists. In addition, the first Under-Secretary-General for Youth, Felipe Paullier, recorded a video message urging young participants to work together for a nuclear-free and sustainable world for all. And to close the event, the Rector of the United Nations University, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, delivered a speech highlighting the importance of the role of youth in addressing these global issues. The partnership with the UN became the driving force behind the success of the event.

Strong partnerships and youth engagement ensured the success of the festival, which took place at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo on 24 March and attracted more than 60,000 participants, in addition to the 500,000 people who watched the event live.

The Tokyo National Stadium, where the Future Action Festival was held on 24 March, with around 66,000 people in attendance. Image: Yukie Asagiri / INPS Japan

One of the main aims of the event was to bring the voices of young people to the UN. The organizing committee surveyed to raise young people’s awareness of nuclear weapons, the climate crisis, and the UN. Between November 2023 and February 2024, around 120,000 responses were collected from people aged between 10 and 40. The results showed that young people have a high level of awareness of climate issues, believe that nuclear weapons are not necessary, and want to contribute to addressing these issues. At the same time, more than half of respondents find it difficult to have hope for the future. Some 80% of respondents feel that young people’s voices are not sufficiently reflected in national and government policies; they are also dissatisfied with the status quo and want systemic change.

Based on the results, the organizing committee developed a joint statement for the UN Future Summit to ensure that young people’s voices are heard and reflected in the discussion process. The statement was presented to Professor Marwala at the event.

Tshilisi Marwala, President of the United Nations University and UN Under-Secretary-General (center), endorsed the Joint Statement of the Organising Committee, recognizing the critical importance of young voices in shaping the Summit’s agenda and urging them to “be a beacon of hope and a driving force for change”.  Image: Yukie Asagiri / INPS Japan.

This is just the beginning of our journey to create a great movement of young people committed to a better future. As a next step to amplify the voices of young people, we plan to communicate with MOFA, one of the focal points of the Future Summit. We will also participate with the organizing committee in the UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in May, a key milestone for civil society to provide input to member states. We hope to present the results of the survey to senior UN officials at the conference. We will also be working at the national level with governments, the UN, and related organizations to make a meaningful contribution to the Compact for the Future.

Tackling daunting global problems can sometimes make us feel hopeless. But through this festival, we have learned that when diverse stakeholders from different backgrounds come together to create change, their solidarity serves as a beacon of hope for young people. It is our responsibility to create a world where young people feel hopeful. Starting with those in Japan, we will move forward and take concrete steps to expand our local and global solidarity together with the UN and various stakeholders.

Hiroko Ogushi is a member of the Future Action Festival organizing committee and one of the youth representatives of Soka Gakkai International (SGI).

The original article can be found here