Leiden biology student finalist UN youth delegate
Roel Wouters (24), a biology student at Leiden University, is a finalist in the election for UN youth delegate for Biodiversity and Food. The digital polls open for a week on Friday 22 October. Under-30s can vote for Roel at www.stemroel.nl.
The youth delegate is the link between young people in the Netherlands and politics, both national and international. If Wouters is elected to this voluntary role, he will spend the next two years talking to young people and listening to their concerns about and solutions to problems like climate change, biodiversity loss and food security. He will share their advice with world leaders in the UN.
The UN youth delegate is based at the Dutch National Youth Council (NJR) and works with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. As part of the Dutch delegation at the UN, the delegate plays an important role in making sure young people’s voices are heard.
Leaders of tomorrow
Wouters is keen to take on this role: ‘It’s time for action. Young people are really worried about the future, and I see it as my job to give them a voice. Politics overwhelmingly consists of over-30s. I think that the leaders of today should listen to the leaders of tomorrow.’
The biology degree Wouters is studying for has given him a firm foundation for the role of delegate for Biodiversity and Food. He’s already had some shocking experiences in internships: ‘From rhinos poached in Africa and the shrinking habitat for Dutch adders, to trees chopped down that I had seen orangutans swinging in just the day before. I’ve seen with my own eyes that biodiversity loss is a global problem. It’s these experiences that I hope will help me reach and engage young people,’ says Wouters.’
‘It’s time for action. Young people are really worried about the future, and I see it as my job to give them a voice.’
‘Biodiversity and food are hugely linked. There are over seven billion people on Earth. It will be a challenge to provide enough food for all of us, while also taking account of the life around us,’ says Wouters. But he doesn’t want to fixate on a single topic. ‘I first want to find out what other young people think is important.’
Roel’s three questions
From Friday 22 October Roel will be doing all he can to achieve his goal. He will be talking to young people from the outset and will try to win as many votes as possible. He and his supporters will also present a film every day next week in which he talks to influential people. The films will be shared on Instagram at @roel_m_wouters. Wouters will talk to people such as the CEO for Sustainability at Ahold, Leon Mol, Rector Magnificus of Leiden University, Hester Bijl, and biologist Freek Vonk from Naturalis Biodiversity Center.
Roel Wouters in the Science Shots podcast
The final stage of the election and the announcement of the winner will be during UN Night in Amsterdam on 29 October. Until then, under-30s can vote for Roel Wouters at www.stemroel.nl.