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Bringing the voices of youth to COP 16 in Mexico


NEW YORK, - The outcome of the global Climate Change conference (COP 16) being held in Cancun, Mexico will have an important impact on the future of all young people. To amplify their voices UNICEF is leading a series of communications technology initiatives to make sure they are heard by world leaders and governments attending the conference.

Through facilitating access to use of social media, UNICEF and partners are enabling young people – most of whom are not able to attend the conference in person -- to participate in these important discussions.

The starting point is a series of local and national events on climate change that young people are coordinating. The outcome of these meetings are then sent via modern technological tools to the Cancun conference, where UNICEF staff work with young people who are conference participants to capture their peers’ thoughts and ideas and also share the responses with youth activists worldwide.

One example of creative use of social media and technology stems from Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, and Mongu, a rural town in that country’s Western Province. Through UNICEF’s Unite for Climate initiative, which raises the profile of young people’s ideas about climate change, specially trained youth journalists from these two locations have produced a series of radio features and podcasts which illustrate how climate change has affected their lives. Workshops intended to inspire similar programmes are also being organized in partnership with the Children’s Radio Foundation in Kenya and South Africa.

In his podcast, 15 year-old UNICEF Climate Ambassador Luyando Katenda asks world leaders “to make responsible decisions for the good of all and to make the world a better place to live in. I hope that COP16 shall bring hope of us having a better future.”

Twenty-four year old Dipesh Chapagain and his organization, Clean Energy Nepal/Clean Air Network Nepal, have worked tirelessly to bring the spirit of COP 16 home. They have published a full page article in the Himalayan Times outlining the effects climate change could have in their backyard, organized Beboing Dances through densely populated parts of Kathmandu to capture the public’s attention, facilitated a drawing competition and held a workshop with members of the Nepali Government to raise awareness of climate change and encourage young people to take action.

Beatrice Yeung, a member of UNICEF’s Climate Ambassador Programme is conducting a three-day youth forum in Hong Kong hosting climate change scientists, government officials, and approximately 200 students.

Abiri Oluwatosin, the founder of Sustainable Nigeria, uses his Facebook account to discuss issues like deforestation, the search for alternative energy sources and better sanitation practices with fellow young Nigerians, while also keeping them abreast of the newest developments at the COP 16 conference.

“We need to use the expertise and fresh thinking of young activists in more strategic and sustained ways to find local and global solutions to climate change,” says Gerrit Beger, leading an innovations team at UNICEF. “Media, social networks and digital tools provide opportunities to share experiences, develop initiatives and tell the stories of how climate change affects the lives of young people, often adding to other challenges in developing countries. "

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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