“Everything is achievable if you just believe in what you are doing.”
September 27, 2022
All over the world, young people are fighting for the right to a livable future.
Despite famines, droughts, and rising sea levels, they refuse to give up on what older generations have promised for decades but not delivered; meaningful action to address a heating planet and advance climate justice.
The meeting came ahead of two milestone climate conferences, COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, in November, followed by COP15 on Biodiversity in Montreal, Canada, in December.
Young people shared their ideas with world leaders and drew strength from the fact that even though they are working and campaigning in widely different parts of the world, they are not alone.
Emir, is a representative of the COR (Center for Sustainable Development) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of the Strengthening of Green Network project, funded by UNDP country office and Italy. He is working to create a vision of a sustainable future, one that invests in peace and prosperity. He is trying to counter the mindset many young people in his country have, namely that because of a challenging political situation they can’t “fight the system”.
“It’s an amazing experience. I’m really honoured to be here because the young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina will see that everything is possible. So that is one of the reasons why I’m here, just to show them the light. Show them the way that everything is achievable if you just believe in what you are doing. How can we be united? How can we together create a better and sustainable future, following the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in order to create a better future for us all?”
Archana’s work focuses on Indigenous people's rights. A member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, she is working towards intergenerational connections with Indigenous leaders from all regions to learn how to build resilience and advocate for compensating loss and damage.
“I’m very happy to be here at the Youth4Climate event because I believe it’s one of the spaces where we are able to have an honest and frank conversation. As I was also part of the Youth4Climate 2021 in Milan, I feel we have come a long way in our discussions, how we are taking forward the manifesto. So I truly feel there have been so many things we’ve been able to do since last year. I truly believe that is the youth that are anchoring this process and taking it ahead. It’s a space of international solidarity amongst young people.”
Annette is a research associate in the University of Guam in the Federated States of Micronesia. Small island development states are facing rising sea levels, less freshwater and food security risks.
“It’s been super encouraging, meeting up with like-minded individuals, young people who are so passionate and doing their part in their region of the world. I’m always so humbled to be in their presence and to learn from each other.
(At COP 27) we are demanding financing for loss and damage, that’s number one right now. We really need the financing in order to sustain ourselves to develop and adapt to the challenges that we’re facing.”
Ilyess is from Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine. Now displaced by the war, they are a volunteer organizer for Fridays for Future and were a delegate at COP26 in Glasgow. Even when the fighting became worse around their home, they and their friends continued to work for climate justice because they knew they had global support.
“We knew we are not alone, in Kharkiv in Ukraine. We are part of a global youth community and we’ve been here demanding a fair life and a safe future. But the war has changed our reality. We have been seeing how homes have been destroyed. How the streets where we’ve been protesting have been demolished. It wasn’t the future that the youth and children wanted. We want peace, justice and climate action, a safe future and a fair life.”
Karla is an engineer from Sao Tome and Principe. She is working on local problems related to climate change, such as housing, water and infrastructure. In 2021 she took part in the Youth Climate Tour: A Dialogue Series, with representatives of the UNDP country office.
“We are looking for networks. Finding people with similar problems, trying to find solutions together, to brainstorm to make something robust and appliable. It’s so nice to be here in New York; I’m so happy and grateful to meet these people. All young people, no matter where we are from, we are the same, we have the same concerns at the end of the day.”
Mai is from Viet Nam. She used her gap year between high school and college to work for UNDP Viet Nam and to raise awareness of the climate crisis. She helped to write the first Viet Nam Youth Special Report on Climate Change. She is encouraging young people to raise their voices and be heard on the vital issues that directly affect their futures.
“I think the most important part of being at events like this is connecting with other young people and people who are here in person. Nothing really replaces in-person connection, so making sure I spend time talking to people from as many places and working on as many things as possible, that’s a priority for me.”
Omar is from Damascus, Syria. He founded a movement called Guardians of Nature which has more than 150 volunteers and works in Syria and around the Middle East and North African.
“What we’re doing is we’re trying to raise awareness by preparing young people to create articles, do research, bring data from their communities and raise awareness in the area. We’re trying to prepare them to speak to local leaders to implement actions to develop plans with them.
At Youth4Climate I’m really glad to be here with young people from all around the world to be able to connect with them, develop my project and see what issues they’re facing in their countries, which is quite helpful because that way we can try to aggregate our efforts in regard to climate action, and find solutions together.”
Maximo is a Generation 17 leader and the founder of EcoHouse, a Argentinian non-profit whose main objective is to promote sustainable development through education, politics, communication, consultancy, ecological restoration and volunteering.
“We have a message for every decision maker out there. Please engage with youth and involve us in every decision-making process. Because if we are not on the table, we are on the menu.
Congratulations to the 150 young climate activists and entrepreneurs who worked together the last couple of days to keep pushing forward towards concrete and inclusive climate actions.”
The Youth4Climate initiative, supported by UNDP and Italy, was developed jointly with young people and youth constituencies, in partnership with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat (UN Climate Change), YOUNGO (the official children and youth constituency of UNFCCC), the Secretary-General´s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, the Office of the Secretary General´s Envoy on Youth and Connect4Climate – World Bank Group.
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