YOUTH STATEMNET AT THE OPENING FORUM OF THE SEVENTH AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT FORUM, 12TH OCTOBER
2010: Ms. Esther Agbarakwe, Nigeria
Climate Change poses significant challenges to future generations. As youth we have a stake in this future; it is our future.
As the 7th African Development Forum, we have indeed come of age, we are no longer in our childhood stages of determining sustainable development – the time of maturity has arrived. This year is marked as the International Year of Youth and now, more than ever before, the youth are taking a stand. More than anyone else, we, the Youth, face unprecedented challenges as a result of global climate change. We also share the responsibility of addressing it. As a group, we are key moral stakeholders in the international processes treating the most important challenge of our generation. As it is our future, we will be disproportionately affected by the catastrophic impacts of climate change.
Advocacy and Behavior Change: It is critical for present and future leaders to collaborate on finding solutions. The need for cultural transformation in our time is stronger than ever. This transformation – that enables us to shift towards a more sustainable world – should be an organic process, guided by principles of compassion, integrity and justice. We need to pragmatically rethink our behavioral patterns, to enable a paradigm shift that is based on an ongoing process of action, reflection and meaningful participation. Awareness, education and empowerment are fundamental prerequisites to enabling this process, and the youth are energetic and passionate about holding governments and all relevant stakeholders involved accountable for their actions. We are equal partners in this process and commit ourselves fully to achieving the objectives as decided by this Forum.
Contrary to what is believed; young people play a dynamic role in framing and implementing policies. So their role goes beyond advocacy. From an advocacy perspective, young people are involved in songs and stories which spread awareness in local languages. Of course we understand the importance and relevance of this because 70% of Africa is based in rural areas and the term Climate Change is foreign, Young people are finding ways of using words in local languages to translate the message across.
It is time to shift the balance of decision-making towards the generation that will have to manage this unwanted inheritance, to make political and economic decisions that can span a generation, and to enable real inter-generational and inter-cultural dialogue about climate change to be realized in institutions where the youth generation can learn.
However at the same time a range of social learning and marketing approaches need to be developed to address the gap between classroom education styles and education that stimulates real action. This gap prevents the cultural shift from token awareness to personal action and reaction.
Education: In relation to climate change, African Governments should begin at inception to mainstream youth voices and perceptions. This is particularly important because climate change projections indicate that effects will begin to be most felt in the next 20-30 years — young people should begin to be part of the solution so that they will be able to cope when disaster calls. Involving them in this programme will ensure that those who will be affected will have direct knowledge of the challenges and strategies for coping as well as the ability to mobilize communities to respond to and prepare for the impact of climate change and natural disasters.
Governments must give credence to the higher learning education system in Africa in particular the increased accent on improvement of research and innovation on climate change specifically highlighting on policy and reform, the programmes, pedagogy and teaching tools. This will enhance an equipped pool of intellectual capital among the young people on climate change issues who will replicate this to the various organizations and networks that they are part of.
At government level, during the last Conference of the Parties (COP), it was pleasing to see that many African delegations included youth and gave them a role to play. Furthermore, many youth who were involved in COP 15 deliberations have been interacting with their various governments and engaging in processes and procedures that are related to Climate change policy. There is an understanding that more needs to be done, and at this forum, I urge you to engage young people who knock on your doors asking to be involved.
Youth and youth based NGOs play a major role either in strengthening local capacity to cope or by supporting local action. Already, groups such as the Nigerian Youth Coalition and the African youth Climate Initiative-Kenya have established school climate clubs, which are creative ways to engage young people; these initiatives should be mainstreamed into education systems. Young people in this governance process are important because successful adaptation requires a host of innovative measures developed with vulnerable communities to improve their present and future livelihoods. Young people are vibrant and are able to access places that many governmental institutions fail to access. As the majority of the population and Africa’s future, it is important to include them in this impending crisis that is Climate Change.
Already, this conference calls for integrated approaches to enable African countries to develop strategies for adaptation to climate change. There is a dire need to have a clearer understanding of the potential calamities that climate change can bring and to start the discourse on how best to stave off the worst impacts. There is already an understanding that
Climate Change is not a localized problem but transcends national borders, hence the need for co-operation of Intergovernmental agencies but also to include those young and vulnerable people.
No longer can climate change be seen as merely an environmental problem or an energy challenge. It is a combination of both, which needs the involvement of young people to preserve the environment and enter into green energy careers.
It’s important for all of us to recognize that sustainable development isn’t just a catch phrase – people all over the continent are taking it into their own hands. A couple days ago over 300 community events took place in nearly every country on the continent of Africa, and more than 7000 globally as part of the Global Work Party on 10/10/10.
Everywhere in the world, people planted trees, cultivated community gardens, installed solar panels, made buildings more efficient and implemented thousands of other grassroots solutions to the climate crisis. We got to work everywhere in the world, but we need you, leaders, to get to work, too.
Thank you and God bless.