Dialogue with Youth on their role in addressing the triple planetary crisis

Remarks by Ms. Alissar Chaker, UNDP Resident Representative

June 5, 2024

The present and the future belong to young people. UNDP is a firm believer in youth power! UNDP's field experience confirms that young people are critical in localizing the 2030 Agenda and developing grassroots solutions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs will not be achieved as planned in 2030! The United Nations has raised the alert on the triple planetary crisis; i.e., the three interlinked complex challenges humanity is now facing, namely, climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. So, your efforts and commitment as young people are much needed now! The UN Secretary-General has called for a global Summit of the Future this September, which will be a one-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance cooperation on critical challenges and address gaps in global governance for the benefit of future generations. Young people are expected to play a central role in this global summit which will shape the future.

Many young people want to contribute to advancing sustainable development but they lack the resources, tools, and opportunities to do so. UNDP is committed to harnessing the positive energy and potential of youth, providing platforms for amplifying their voice and leveraging their action, access to finance for youth projects, and youth networks for advocacy and exchange of information and experience. We have been supporting various local, regional, and global initiatives. Allow me to share with you some of them: 

  • The first-ever Local Conference of Youth on Climate Action in Cambodia was organized last year with our partner Impact Hub Phnom Penh. It resulted in the vision entitled “Green Cambodia We Want” that was presented by a Cambodian delegate at the Global Conference of Youth before COP28. 

  • Since 2019, we have also been supporting young entrepreneurs pursuing green solutions through impact challenges, be it the Youth Impact Challenge on Urban Mobility and Transport Solutions or the regional Ending Plastic Pollution Innovation Challenge (EPPIC), which awarded funds to a team of the Institute of Technology of Cambodia to develop an innovative collection device to capture plastic pollution in rivers and waterways. This is just one example of youth's potential for addressing climate issues.

  • The UNDP Movers Programme and the Youth CoLab in Asia and the Pacific continue empowering young people across the region to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs and address the impacts of the triple planetary crisis. Over the years, the youth empowerment in climate action platform has supported more than 30,000 young leaders, including those from marginalized communities through fellowships, capacity building, and conference participation on climate.

Globally, the Youth4Climate initiative is strengthening youth networks and access to resources for youth-led innovative solutions that contribute to climate action. Under this initiative, a team of young Cambodians was awarded a grant to develop a climate-themed card game to increase young people’s awareness in an engaging manner. 

Under the UNDP Climate Promise Initiative, UNDP also developed the 'On Equal Terms' Checklist that provides officials, policymakers, and other climate practitioners with a comprehensive guide for establishing a youth-inclusive process for the development and implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and developed a Climate dictionary to make knowledge on climate accessible to all. For those interested, please visit the UNDP Cambodia website for consulting or downloading it. 

The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 660 million young people (aged 15-24). In Cambodia, young people under the age of 30 represent two-thirds of the population. They are the key development drivers as Cambodia aspires to attain an upper-middle-income country by 2030. Hence, engaging young Cambodians in addressing and mitigating the devastating effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution is not only a smart idea but a must. 

UNDP has been supporting the Royal Government in defining the its climate agenda and implementing its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by promoting circularity, nature-based solutions, energy transition, and climate resilience. In all our activities, we do involve young people as active stakeholders and guardians of the future. 

Today, we are meeting to celebrate together Environment Day 2024, exchange and amplify your voice and environmental ambitions. World Environment Day is the largest global platform for environmental outreach held annually since 1973 by our sister agency UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme). Hosted officially by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this year’s theme focuses on land degradation, desertification, and drought resilience. Sustainable Development Goal 15 of the 2030 Agenda aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. Land degradation is a global challenge with far-reaching and pressing implications for people’s lives, safety, and property. In Cambodia, land degradation is caused by soil erosion, deforestation, and competitive land use, depleting ecological services and watershed functions, and threatening rural livelihoods.

To end land degradation, we must adapt to climate variations and address unsustainable human interventions (ex. Competitive land use, pollution, and loss of biodiversity and forest cover). Last year, historical temperature records were broken. Much of the world felt the impacts, not just in terms of heat waves, but also in storms, floods, and droughts. Unfortunately, our adaptive capacity in terms of infrastructure, land use planning, agri-food systems, and economic processes is still low. As societies, we are still heavily relying on the exploitation of natural resources and unsustainable production and consumption modes. Ending land degradation would, thus, be futile without addressing the Forest and Land Use Sector and the triple planetary crisis.

In the context of the upcoming NDC update due in 2025 and the Summit of the Future, we have the opportunity to accelerate our efforts and take concrete steps to respond to the triple planetary crisis. 

You are the hope not only for the nation but also for the planet. Remember there is no excuse for procrastination because there is no Planet B! 

I look forward to hearing your impressions and ideas!

Arkun Chren!