NATO and Climate Security in my Backyard

Young Leaders: NATO and Climate Security in my Backyard

The International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) with support from the U.S. Mission to NATO called upon young people across the Arctic, the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, and beyond to share their personal stories about the impacts of climate change in their communities. We heard from young leaders who are deeply concerned about the well-being and security of their homes, as well as the consequences of failing to manage climate risks.

We are proud to present a selection of these powerful and inspiring videos showcasing unique climate security stories from our applicants. These videos highlight personal testimonies and recommendations for policymakers in NATO and NATO member/ partner states to implement innovative climate security solutions. 

We invite everyone to join us in raising awareness by watching these remarkable stories and sharing the campaign using the #MyClimateSecurityStory hashtag on social media. Your support will amplify the voices of these young changemakers and contribute to driving further action on climate change through NATO and beyond. Together, we can build a more resilient and sustainable future.

Marieke Jacobs & Ytze de Vries – Netherlands

“What concerns us is that due to climate change extreme weather events such as floods are likely to become more frequent and more intense around the world. Our proposed solution is to secure communities around the world by rethinking security responses to climate disasters. We think it is important to discuss with future military officers what role armed forces play in reacting to climate disasters, and how they can be trained properly for an increase in intensity and frequency of climate disasters as a result of climate change.”

Michelle Ramirez – Alaska

“The climate impact I discuss is about our longer wildfire seasons and how that contributes to our air pollution. Fairbanks, Alaska has some of the worst air quality from particle pollution, especially in the summers when wildfires occur. We reach hazardous zones where an average person can have serious health effects. The dryer seasons, warming temperatures, and invasive species are only some of the causes of increased wildfires.”

George Tavridis – Greece

“The sudden or slow onset disasters caused by climate change will lead to more frequent and larger refugee waves on the island of Lesvos. The Greek state and the local authorities lack infrastructure and financial ability to host so many people. As tensions arise from local people concerning refugee camps being built on the island, climate driven migration is likely to continue causing conflict between the local community and asylum seekers.”

Young Leader Bios

Pau Alvarez Aragones (Spain) is a graduate student in Transatlantic Affairs at the College of Europe and the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where he is honing transversal expertise in US-EU relations, security and defense, hybrid threats, and digital affairs. Pau is a Senior Analyst in the Conflict & Security Watch, where he provides political risk and intelligence analysis.

Kostian Jano (Albania) has been engaged in various organizations since 2017, working on issues such as the European integration of the Western Balkans, the active participation of young people in democratic processes, and climate adaptation within the framework of the European Green Deal. Currently, he is the National Coordinator of an international development project implemented in Albania with German support.

Virginia Bertuzzi (Italy) is a young professional in International Security and Arms Control. She received her B.S. from the University of Bologna and her M.A. from SPbU in ‘Strategic and Arms Control studies. She has matured experience also in journalism and communication through several experiences as a citizen journalist. Virginia is now interning at CTBTO in the Legal and External Relations Office.

Sofia Kabbej (France) is currently conducting her Ph.D. on France’s climate security approach at the University of Queensland (Australia). In 2020, Sofia created the Climate Security & Peace Project (CS2P), a research and awareness-raising project on the linkages between ecological disruptions and human security. Sofia is also part of the scientific supervision team of the Defence and Climate Observatory, a research initiative launched and directed by the French Ministry for Armed Forces.

Selma Bichbich (Algeria) is a social and climate youth activist who has devoted herself to promoting positive change and advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She has been involved in a wide range of programs and organizations, including serving as an SDSN fellow, the contact point for the Human Rights Working Group at YOUNGO, and the GST Communication Officer at SDG7 Youth Consistency.

Andrej Mitreski (North Macedonia) is an 18-year-old high school student from Ohrid, North Macedonia. His ambitions include computer science/studies, ecological awareness, and volunteering. His vision is to make the world a better place for future generations to enjoy, and he works to educate his community on the effects of climate change and pollution.

Jackson Blackwell (United States) is a lifelong Alaskan, born in Sitka and raised on the Kenai Peninsula. Jackson is a graduate of Boise State University where he was named a Truman Scholar. Since 2017, Jackson has worked for the Anchorage-based NGO, Arctic Encounter, and now helps lead the organization as its Managing Director. He also is a full-time consultant at Kallander & Associates, working with clients across the political, economic, and business sectors.

Michelle Ramirez (United States) is in her second year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) as a biological science major. She does research for UAF on animal health and microbial communities as a Biomedical Student Learning and Training Scholar. As an Arctic Youth Ambassador, she is passionate about conserving wildlife/animals, promoting mental health in youth, and spreading awareness of the impacts of climate change for our Indigenous people and local communities throughout Alaska.

Diana Garlytska (Ukraine) is the UN MGCY SCP Youth Platform Regional Coordinator for Europe. She is a young expert who, over 9 years in academia, has lectured in more than a dozen countries across Europe and Asia. In 2021 Diana Garlytska was a member of the Youth workgroup for the IUCN Global Youth Summit and co-authored IUCN GYS Outcome Statement. In 2022 Diana was a Youth Task Force member for Stockholm+50. She is now on the Advisory Board of CoalitionWILD.

George Tavridis (Greece) holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences from the Democritus University of Thrace and a Master’s degree in Environmental Politics and Biodiversity Conservation from the University of the Aegean. He currently works at a private coaching school and his main interests are politics and the environment, especially understanding how politics can be a part of the solutions to the environmental problems we are facing.

Marieke Jacobs (Netherlands) is an officer-cadet at the Dutch Ministry of Defence and a master’s student in Earth science and Energy science. In addition to her work and research at the Ministry of Defence on climate security, she aims to use her role as an elite athlete to carry out knowledge about a sustainable and healthy planet and climate security.

Ytze de Vries (Netherlands) is a master’s student in Energy Science at Utrecht University and is part of a military working student program at the Dutch Ministry of Defence, serving in the reserves of the Royal Netherlands Army. He has worked on various climate security projects, from raising awareness of the security implications of climate change to technical renewable energy assessments for forward-operating military bases. He is the chair of the Dutch group, Youth Climate Security Talks.

Roundtable discussion—April 26, 2023:

As NATO develops its climate security ambition while simultaneously navigating an ongoing conflict in Europe, engaging meaningfully with young leaders is critical for future sustainability and security. The Alliance has much to gain from young leaders’ innovative and systematic ideas for addressing globalized and interconnected challenges such as climate change and conflict.

IMCCS Director Erin Sikorsky and IMCCS Secretary General Sherri Goodman will welcome the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Julianne Smith and NATO 2030 Young Leader Katarina Kertysova for a conversation on a future vision for peace and security. The conversation will then transition into a discussion moderated by CCS Research Fellow Elsa Barron featuring young leaders from across ten countries.

(Now Closed) Video Submission Information:


Are you a young person concerned about the impacts of climate change on well-being and security in your home community? Is your community pursuing innovative approaches to managing climate risks that increase safety and security for your neighbors? Do you have a message to share with policymakers across NATO nations about the opportunities and challenges your home will face in a warming world? The International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) and the U.S. Mission to NATO want to hear your story. We are launching a call for young people to submit short videos showcasing their personal climate security stories. NATO has increased its ambition on climate change over the past few years and your fresh perspectives can help them drive their action even further. 

Selected videos will be featured in a #MyClimateSecurityStory social media campaign showcasing youth experiences with climate security risks across the Arctic, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe. In addition to being featured on social media, selected individuals will be invited to a Young Leaders’ Climate Security Dialogue with the potential for in-person engagement at a NATO ministerial meeting.

What is required?

  • A short video between 2-3 minutes in length, highlighting your personal experience with climate change, climate impacts, and/or climate solutions. 
  • Videos should be based in either the Arctic, the Mediterranean, or Eastern Europe. We are open to a broad interpretation of these regions.
  • Videos should contain three components: 1) An introduction to who you are and where you are from; 2) An overview of a specific climate impact or climate solution in your community and why it matters to security; 3) A proposed action for NATO member states or NATO leaders to take in order to ensure climate security for your community.  

What are the benefits?

  • Selected videos will be featured on the IMCCS and Council on Strategic Risks websites and social media channels and shared with senior policymakers at the U.S. Mission to NATO. 
  • Top entries will be eligible for an honorarium of $500 and video creators will be invited to participate in a series of roundtables on climate security, with the potential for in-person engagement around a NATO ministerial meeting. 
  • Applicants will have the opportunity to continue to engage in a climate security network as part of a young professional network of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). 

Who is eligible?

  • Anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 who is from or living in a NATO country in one of the following regions: the Arcticthe Mediterranean, or Eastern Europe (broadly defined). If you are connected to a country or community that you would place within these boundaries, we welcome you to apply.

What is the timeline?

  • Video submissions were due by February 27th, 2023.
  • Contest winners were selected at the beginning of March 2023. 
  • Roundtables will be held subsequently during the spring and summer of 2023. 

Video submission guidelines

  • English Language or Subtitles. You are welcome to speak in any language, but if the language you speak is not English, please be sure to include English subtitles.
  • No logos. Please ensure that no corporate or copyrighted logos or imagery is visible in your recording. We will be unable to use videos containing such content. 
  • Do a sound check. Limit as much unnecessary background noise as possible and hang a blanket up in rooms that tend to echo to cut back on feedback. 
  • No licensed music. Please ensure that any music being used is not licensed or copyrighted. Any submissions using licensed music will not be used. 
  • Ensure photo permissions. If you will be using photos in your video, ensure that they are your photos or you have the appropriate permissions for use. 
  • Voice overlay. Any portion of the video consisting of a slideshow or gallery must be accompanied by a voice overlay that describes what’s being shown.
  • Check your file settings before you shoot. Make sure that in your phone, laptop, or camera settings you’re shooting in HD (1080p or higher) and in a 16:9 (widescreen) aspect ratio.
  • Shoot horizontally. Shooting sideways will ensure your video fits in nicely with other submissions. 
  • Use natural lighting when possible. However, if you can’t, you can use the lights in your house to create a three-point lighting setup.
  • Don’t let yourself be backlit. Use a window as a light source instead of a background. The subject of your video should always be brighter than what’s behind it.
  • Make sure your camera is at or above eye level. This will provide a more flattering angle than if you’re looking down at your laptop or phone. Try to have your eyes level on the upper horizontal line using the rule of thirds to look like a pro. 
  • Pay attention to the background. White walls are fine but a little boring. Shooting your video with some open space behind you can add nice depth to your shot while giving the audience a peek into your personality. Shooting outdoors is also encouraged, just be sure to check that your audio can be heard clearly. 
  • Natural scenery. ​​Please illustrate your climate security issue by capturing videos or images of your local environment.

Additional considerations

  • A unique setting. How can you showcase your community or specific climate impacts through the video location? How will the location captivate the audience? Note: we’d love to see innovative settings, but please ensure your voice remains audible. If you’re not able to film on location, photos with a voice overlay may also be compelling.
  • Relevance to NATO. How does your experience relate to NATO’s climate change approach? 
  • Global relationships. What elements of your story are shared with other parts of the world? What opportunities exist for cooperation across NATO countries?
  • Clarity. How can you communicate a strong message and compelling call to action in a short video message?
  • Creativity. We want to hear your voice and experience showcased in a creative and compelling way. 


  • This project was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.