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Engaging children and youth in building climate change resilience

December 10, 2010

7th December: “Bearers of Future Responsibility: Engaging children and youth in building climate change resilience”

Panelists (from left to right)
Ana Lucia (youth Bolivian Climate Ambassador)
Mairan (youth Indonesian Climate Ambassador)
Helena Molin-Valdes (Current Deputy Director of UNISDR Secretariat in Geneva)
Wendolyn (youth Mexican Climate Ambassador)
Walter (12-year-old Belize Climate Ambassador)
Coralie (14-year-old Haitian Climate Ambassador)
Mary Robinson (UN High Commissioner to Human Rights 1997-2002)
Yvo de Boer (Executive Secretary to the UNFCCC 2006-2010)

The session aimed to address 3 main questions:
1. How can inter-generational justice considerations shape political decisions made today on climate adaptation and mitigation?
2. What can leaders at national and community level do to empower children and young people to influence climate policy decisions and actions?
3. What can we do to make the most vulnerable children – the poorest and least likely to have access to services – more resilient to disasters?

Mary Robinson spoke about how children have a more profound perspective regarding climate change, not only because they are more familiar with the technology and communication of today, but also because they have the ability to change the narrative when they have the opportunity to be heard. She also emphasised on how children and youth tend to think and act in a more people-centric approach without being tainted by the ideals of national interests, as well as the need to reinforce global youth networks to create synergies and an integrated approach towards building climate change resilience. Helena Molin-Valdes shared a similar viewpoint, emphasising on the need of effective communication.

Yvo de Boer touched on another aspect, talking about how the UNFCCC process of negotiations have forgotten or even lost their sense of purpose – and constant reminders to negotiators that they are negotiating the lives of their future generations is crucial. Essentially, keep confronting these people about the reality and remind them of the responsibilities that they have towards the younger generations.

Later, the children each shared their stories of climate change in their countries, two of the most striking being a video made by an El Salvador youth ambassador about the impacts of climate change as witnessed throughout her childhood, and Coralie, the Haitian youth climate ambassador. About the video, I don’t think we can find it online anywhere but it was really visually impactful – it didn’t exaggerate facts or appeal to the audience’s sympathy; all it presented was true facts and observations from the eyes of a child growing up in a country vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The things that transform in such a short span of time. Like one of them said; the forest she used to camp out at with her father during childhood was completely gone in a few years. Deforestation at action my friends.

As for Coralie, it is really impressive and inspiring to see someone so young like her having such strong ambitions and visions about what she wants to do back at Haiti. In addition, she actually asked why the conference itself is an inherent paradox, something we all observed but never did voice out: why is it that at a climate change conference, the venues are complete energy-guzzlers with super cold air-conditioning and lights on everywhere? I applaud her for her courage in speaking up in front of an audience much older than herself and at the very event that invited her 🙂

So have we forgotten our true purpose in the UNFCCC negotiations?
Listen to the voice of the young; it is this collective spirit that we need at the negotiation table.
Listen to the voice of the young; it will be the inherently ethical compass in such trying times.

And of course a tiny (understatement, really) bonus; a group shot with Yvo de Boer!!! 😀 😀 😀
Will upload the video of the interview soon!

Keep in touch with this space, last day of COP16!

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