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In Antigua, island youth build a ‘wall of commitment’ to fight the climate crisis

The SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit takes place this weekend at the University of the West Indies campus of the beautiful island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which is hosting SIDS4, bringing together around 80 young people from all three official SIDS regions – Caribbean, Pacific and AIS (Indian Ocean) and South China Sea) in 3 days of reflection.

They sat noisily and excitedly in the large, airy university hall on Saturday to write down their personal commitments to action.

The “Wall of Commitment” was built by delegates from the SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit ahead of the SIDS4 conference in Antigua and Barbuda.

The “Wall of Commitment” was built by delegates from the SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit ahead of the SIDS4 conference in Antigua and Barbuda.

Another brick on the wall

One of the cardboard “bricks” even has an image of an empty plastic bottle – the bane of many of their home islands – plastered inside with a call for “plastic-free islands, lasting”.

This powerful event is the brainchild of Ashley Lashleya lifelong activist who, after being crowned Miss World Barbados in 2018, founded the Ashley Lashley Foundation to raise awareness of major social, environmental and health issues, especially through her advocacy. respect of small island nations like yourself.

UNICEF Youth Advocate and co-organizer of the SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit Ashley Lashley.
UNICEF Youth Advocate Ashley Lashley.

She has convinced several powerful partners to join her campaign and advocacy mission with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) organized a youth summit with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.

UNICEF’s pioneering youth campaigner has been working for months on a “commitment to action” that includes in-person and online consultation, culminating in the wall-building initiative and today’s presentation. Saturday.

“The focus is on four overarching themes also relevant to the SIDS4 conference: resilient recovery; environmental integrity and planetary sustainability; a secure future and a secure and prosperous society,” she said UN News.

United Nations reproductive rights agency UNFPAThe Caribbean Development Bank, the Governments of Malta and Australia had also supported the summit, she added, along with the Global Environment Facility.

Show and tell

On Friday, youth delegates witnessed firsthand some of the environmental damage caused by climate change on Antigua’s coast and hills, including the alarming die-off of coral reefs due to warming tropical waters.

On Saturday, they participated in master classes in advocacy, communications, movement building and policy negotiations, culminating in the monumental wall. On Sunday, they developed 10-year action projects in their area.

“We hope that the projects can receive technical and financial support…We are in the middle but there is still a long way to go,” she said, to unleash the full power in the room.

Noah Herlaar-Hassan, 17, from the tiny southern Caribbean diving oasis of Bonaire, said vulnerable lowland SIDS “are the first to feel the impact of many things,” especially the crisis. climate crisis.

“What people who don’t live in SIDS need to realize is that even if they don’t feel the direct impacts, they still have a big voice in changing the ultimate outcome…It’s our generation that will have to pay the greatest price and that is why we are here today, to see how we can become stronger as a group.”

The future is in our hands

said Adelaide Nafoi, 25, from the Pacific island of Samoa UN News She attended the summit as SIDS4’s Pacific delegate to envision a better future for her country, the region and the entire world.

Youth voices “hold the future of all our countries”, as “the change-makers of today”.

“To all young people around the world, remember that your voice is not merely an echo in the wind. Your voice will change the future of you, your siblings, your cousins, your family and your country.”

“I urge you to realize the great power hidden within each of you. It is the power that brings change and can lead us to a better future…For anyone who is afraid to speak, now is the time to speak up because if you don’t – no one will speak up for you. your youth and your country.”

SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit delegate Renee Smith (left) after completing her “wall of commitment” to present at the SIDS4 conference.

SIDS Global Children and Youth Action Summit delegate Renee Smith (left) after completing her “wall of commitment” to present at the SIDS4 conference.

Share and care

Renee Smith, 28, from the Caribbean island of Grenada, contributed to her wall by pledging to protect the ocean “through awareness and responsible behavior of youth and communities.”

She said they shared the burden of being hit hard by climate change and attended the summit together “so that developed countries can listen to our concerns and support mitigation.” the impacts we face.”

Sharing awareness among all generations is important, she added, calling on young people in particular to continue to conserve and protect the ecosystems around them.

After the SIDS4 conference ended, Ms. Lashley determined that the energy generated during the youth summit would not wane, followed by the United Nations Future Summit and COP29.

“We will develop a youth action task force…to really ensure that action commitments and action projects are being developed and monitored.

“As young people, we often talk about the accountability of leaders but the rationale behind this summit is that we, as young people and children, are truly willing to responsibility for the actions we are taking for future generations.”


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