Magid Magid reflects on: Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study 2023

Before releasing our Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study: 'The Movers of Tomorrow?' on October 31, we asked our Fellow Magid Magid to reflect on our findings. Read his blog here.

January 26, 2024

Portrait of Magid Magid

© Tolga Akmen

“We cannot talk about the climate crisis without recognising that it is also an inequality and race issue.”
Magid Magid

Before releasing the Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study: 'The Movers of Tomorrow?' on October 31, we requested our Fellow Magid Magid to reflect on our findings. Magid Magid is a Somali-British activist, author, former EU Parliament member and former Mayor of Sheffield. Magid’s work in the past few years has revolved around climate justice, refugee rights and social justice. He is the founder and director of Union of Justice, an independent, people of colour (POC) led organisation dedicated to racial justice and climate justice. Magid Magid is also an Allianz Foundation Fellow. Here is his blog.

We cannot talk about the climate crisis without recognising that it is also an inequality and race issue. Here at Union of Justice, we are a European, independent, people of colour (POC) led organisation dedicated to racial justice and climate justice as we maintain that there is a clear and crucial connection between both. Our proximal goals are to ensure that centralised projects and decisions regarding European climate action do not worsen injustice and that POC voices and concerns are heard and embraced. A just climate transition demands that we ensure that any and all remedial action against climate change is just, inclusive, and diverse in outlook. This requires broad support and engagement across all layers of society, and particularly the younger generations whose lives will be affected much harder by the effects of a changing climate than older generations.  

The “Next Generation” Study that Allianz Foundation will publish in October presents a multifaceted understanding of young people's willingness and reluctance to engage in the climate justice movement. Based on a survey of 10,000 members of Generation Z and Y in five European countries, including our home country, the UK, it offers much needed insights and creates a basis for a debate on how we can motivate young people even better to take responsibility for a green and equitable future.  

There are currently many pressing issues impacting the climate justice space. One of them is the UK Parliament passing the “Public Order Bill” earlier this year - a bill that will introduce more draconian powers to restrict people's fundamental rights to peaceful protest. And if there is one thing we have learnt from history, it's that without protest, there is no social progress. The bill includes orders that can ban individuals from joining protests and an expansion of police powers to stop and search people on the grounds they might be planning to commit a protest-related offence – including many newly created by the bill – as well as powers for "suspicionless" searches around protests. This led to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, saying the legislation was "deeply troubling" and that it imposed restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly that are "neither necessary nor proportionate".

For decades we have witnessed the vital importance of peaceful protest in raising the alarm about the urgent threat of climate catastrophe and the decline of nature and pressing decision-makers from the global to the local level to act to protect people and the planet. This bill now impacts the climate justice space as it will deter the public from joining protests essential to voice the need to preserve nature and accelerate climate action.

Another pressing issue in the climate discourse is its domination by middle-class people, leading to a lack of diverse perspectives. This bias often overlooks the unique challenges and insights of working-class and marginalised communities, especially young people who are often disempowered. Climate change doesn't affect everyone equally; those who are already disadvantaged often bear the brunt of environmental degradation and extreme weather events. However, their voices and specific needs are frequently ignored in policy-making and discussions. The solutions and policies crafted tend to cater to those who are already privileged, inadvertently exacerbating social inequalities. The call for climate justice demands a broader inclusion of all voices, recognising that addressing climate change requires an understanding of the complex interplay of social, economic, and environmental factors. By fostering an inclusive dialogue, a more equitable and effective approach to combating climate change can be achieved.

There are three ways as an organisation that we are addressing these issues.  

Firstly, we have forged a vibrant network of activists, campaigners, researchers, artists, groups and changemakers who are from marginalised backgrounds. In the network, we facilitate training, mentoring, and providing capacity-building support so those most affected are equipped with the skills and knowledge to bring about change in their communities. This network provides a space for people to be part of a community, share best practices and test and pilot ideas for what an equitable, just and sustainable society could look like.

Secondly, our commitment to change is anchored in rigorous study. We are conducting groundbreaking research that is exploring the current and historical climate injustices communities of colour living in West Europe are facing, as well as the impacts that existing domestic and EU policies are having on them.

Lastly, the core of our engagement lies with the young people, who play a pivotal role in all levels of our organisation. Through our work with them, we came up with the idea to launch an artist residency because climate solutions can't be left to scientists, technocrats, and politicians. The climate crisis is also a crisis of culture and, thus, of imagination.  

In light of our mission and the path that we seek to fulfil it, the "Next Generation Study" offers a pivotal roadmap for climate justice organisations like ours to decode young people's motivations, aspirations, and hesitations. It helps us better understand their (lack of) willingness to become more involved in the fight for a just climate transition in four particular ways.

First and foremost, by illuminating the driving factors and barriers facing young people, the study will aid us in devising strategies that align with their actual concerns. For instance, if young people are passionate about their future well-being but feel deterred by a perceived lack of impact, organisations can tailor campaigns that both empower them and demonstrate tangible results.

Secondly, the nuanced understanding of how young people consume and trust information is a crucial insight the study provides. In an era where traditional media may be overshadowed by digital platforms and influencers, recognising where young people seek knowledge and whom they trust can allow organisations to optimise their messaging. This means not only selecting the right platforms but also partnering with trusted figures who resonate with the younger generation.

Third, insights into the types of activities and engagements that young people prefer could guide strategic mobilisation. Whether they are drawn to online activism, local community projects, or global movements, understanding their preferences can help in crafting efforts that align with their interests and lifestyles. This can lead to higher participation rates and a stronger sense of ownership among the youth.

Lastly, by highlighting the diverse concerns of young people across different communities, the study underscores the need for inclusivity. Climate justice organisations can tailor their campaigns to be more representative, ensuring that voices from varied backgrounds are not just heard but actively included in shaping the narrative and actions.

From tailor-made messaging and strategic mobilisation to inclusive campaigning and policy guidance, the insights derived from the Next Generation Study could be vital in crafting initiatives that speak to the hearts and minds of the youth, igniting their passion and participation in the fight for a just climate transition.