International Session in Milan: Circular Sustainability: rethinking today, shaping tomorrow

The European Youth Parliament network looks back on a memorable 92nd International Session in Milan, that took place 24th of April – 1st of May, a tremendous achievement of perseverance and determination by the young volunteers who made a first Digital International Session possible under supremely challenging circumstances. The International Session aimed at fostering in-depth discussions on the omni-comprehensive concept of sustainability, proposing itself as an open youth platform to share ideas, thoughts, and best practices for a sustainable future through the activation of an international network. More than 200 participants from 20 countries met online to discuss the topic “Circular Sustainability: rethinking today, shaping tomorrow” and to elaborate solutions for the sustainable future of Europe linked to the Sustainable Development Goals framework.

It is also time to reflect on those institutional partners of the EYP that made such an ambitious endeavour possible. Very prominently among these must figure the German Savings Bank Association and the European Savings Bank Group, who have supported the International Sessions of the EYP since 2016 The Milano International Session and its successful implementation of a highly innovative format are a clear demonstration of the impact that the coming together of a diverse array of social actors – from civil society groups to businesses such as the German Savings Bank Association and the European Savings Bank Group – can have on young people, and indeed, society as a whole.

In the frame of the session, The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs I (ECON I) of the International Session discussed the following question connected to the Sustainable Development Goal 1 “No poverty”: “In light of increasing inequalities, the intensifying climate crisis, and many questioning current economic models, what role can alternative economic approaches play and how can they be implemented on a large scale?”. This consisted then of a challenge to the participants to consider not only methods for the creation of prosperity but also for the justice of its distribution and the sustainability of the economic model underpinning our societies. The event volunteers produced a video shortly providing context to the topic at hand, which can be found here.

For this goal, they were supported by two experts in the field, who provided valuable insights into the interplay between the different sectors. The first expert was Weselina Angelow, Programme Director at the Scale2Save Initiative in the WSBI (World Savings Banks Institute) who has managed and implemented large-scale financial sector development and inclusion for more than a decade. Weselina is part of WSBI’s worldwide efforts to provide universal access to financial services. The second expert was Anke Steinbach, an entrepreneur with the Sustainavigator brand, who has worked for over 18 years in sustainability, both as a strategy consultant to major companies and as a university lecturer. A passionate advocate for sustainable business transformation and development, she has published her book “Do you speak sustainability?”, covering basic concepts and strategic trends in sustainability management, and under the brand “Sustainavigator”, Anke now impacts broader audiences via social media.

The impact these discussions had on participants were very significant, with Shahane from Armenia telling us that she now believes “We need to prioritize investing in sustainability in a proper way and that the most efficient next step will be designing systems of using the financial resources, which can be done by combined work of economists, environmental engineers and scientists”. Shahane is not the only one attaching greater importance to the interplay between the creation of wealth and the protection of our environment, as Nikoleta from Bulgaria tells us – “We need to change our thinking about how the economy should work.  We need to keep investing in sustainable solutions and search for new ideas, while still examining them critically and asking ourselves if we really can or should implement them.” Find more quotes of the participants here.

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The participants of the Session, therefore, learned a great deal about these topics as part of the Session and having had the opportunity to connect with decision-makers from various areas of society helped them inform the views they developed on the fight against climate change and the building of a more sustainable economy. On that subject, they also had the opportunity to hear from Dr. Karl-Peter Schackmann-Fallis, Executive Member of the Board of the German Savings Banks Association, who alluded to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate the need to act swiftly and decisively when confronting crisis – either public health-related or those closer to the environment and the economic welfare of the people of Europe. Dr. Schackmann-Fallis’ intent was particularly captured when he stated that “[…] if we can learn one thing from this pandemic, it is the importance of acting decisively when confronted with imminent crisis”. You can watch the full speech here.

As the participants of the Session can attest to, this event was not only underlining of the dangers ahead, but also a positive mark – a reminder that it is not only in the hands of others that the power to change the world lies, but also in each young, determined person. The help and collaboration of the experts and partners at the Milano International Session made this realisation possible, for all of the participants.

Topic Overview

Resolution Booklet (ECON I) (p. 19-21)