Martijn Visser, a Master’s student of Forest and nature conservation, was elected UN youth representative for sustainability on Monday evening. In the election campaign Visser beat the Delft student Marguerite Willemsen. ‘This is a fantastic opportunity I’m getting.’
For the next two years Visser will represent young people at UN summits on sustainability and climate change. He has already booked his first climate summit in the Netherlands this week, and the next one will be in Morocco. Exactly what he has to do there, he has no idea yet, but he is really looking forward to it. ‘I am very happy I’ve been elected.’
When Martijn saw the advertisement for a UN youth representative, he did not hesitate. ‘I have a huge passion for nature but I am also worried about the way we are spoiling it. I want to make people, and especially young people, aware of these problems. Many young people don’t know about the effects of climate change and I want to change that.
For the election Visser gathered a campaign team of ten friends around him. ‘I had ten days. We met every day to make plans.’ The new youth representative’s team visited universities a lot and made active use of social media to promote Visser. ‘We did a lot of flyering and our whole campaign team had the same profile photo on Facebook, showing how you could vote for me.’
The Master’s students had no shortage of media attention. He was in several newspapers and on the radio. At Wageningen University he spoke to students at lectures. ‘Unfortunately, exam week was just starting so I didn’t have any more opportunities to go along to lectures to talk to people. Everyone in Wageningen was hugely enthusiastic. Of course this subject relates to the things that matter a lot to many people in Wageningen.’
In the coming period Visser will mainly collect a lot of views of young people, so he knows what issues are important to them. He will then present the views of young people in political fora and at UN conferences. For the coming year he will probably focus fulltime on his new job as UN youth representative. ‘I’m not going to take any courses as the university either. I will take up my studies again in the second year. This is a great opportunity; I can talk to so many people about such important topics that I am keen to invest time and energy in that and put my studies on the back burner to do so.’