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Children participate in UN Climate Change Forum

© UNICEF Bangladesh\AH Towfique Ahmed
Tariqul Islam, centre, answers questions at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference
Sophie McNamara

DHAKA, 23rd December, 2009. It’s not every day that journalists from leading media organisations gather to listen to a group of teenagers.

But that’s just what happened when Bangladesh’s four youth delegates - Arif Arman, Miti Annesha, Fatema Akhter and Tariqul Islam – returned from the Children’s Climate Forum in Copenhagen, which was organised by UNICEF and the City of Copenhagen.

At a press briefing in Dhaka organised by UNICEF, the delegates discussed their experiences at the conference with almost 30 journalists and cameraman. Their favourite activities included receiving life-skills training, climate change education and visiting a school to learn about flood-resistant building design.

The teenagers met with representatives of the official Government of Bangladesh delegation in Copenhagen, led by MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the Chairperson of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on the Environment.

The youth delegates said that they attracted a lot of attention from media and other youth participants as they explained how climate change is already impacting their communities.

“Many young people [at the forum] didn’t know about Bangladesh. But they came to know about it from our posters and stories about how children are being affected,” said Tariqul, who was interviewed by several media outlets in Copenhagen including BBC World.

Tariqul was also selected as one of only eight UNICEF climate ambassadors worldwide who represented young people at the 15th UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15), held in the week after the Children’s Forum.

Attendees at the conference included Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and world leaders from 117 other countries.

Tariqul, from remote Bhola Island in southern Bangladesh, was a key speaker at a briefing by the child delegates on disaster risk reduction, where he explained how natural disasters such as cyclones and flooding have affected his life.

“I think the impact of climate change has worsened the situation. Now, the frequency and magnitude of the disasters are more devastating,” he said.

© UNICEF Bangladesh\AH Towfique Ahmed
Tariqul Islam speaks to the media about climate change in Bangladesh
“Sea erosion and river erosion are also big problems for my island. There is a nearby island called Manpura. One third of the island has already eroded within the last two years. I am afraid to hear that this island will go under sea water within the next 3-5 years,” he said.

The young Bangladeshis, who were selected through an essay writing competition, also performed a 10-minute drama at the conference that expressed the harm that cyclones inflict on children.

“Everyone watching was very emotional,” said Fatema. “The drama showed how nature had affected the lives of a family and how climate change is impacting on children’s psychological and physical development.”

Attending the Forum was a life-changing experience for the four delegates, none of whom had travelled overseas before. They now have a network of friends around the world, and the confidence to act as climate ambassadors in their own communities.

They have each developed action plans to improve their communities’ awareness of mitigating and adapting to climate change, using modes such as social media and school visits. All four delegates are also child journalists (trained by the Mass Line Media Center, a Bangladeshi NGO working in partnership with UNICEF), so they plan to use their journalistic skills to write stories for local and international press.

The Forum culminated in the adoption of a declaration which was presented to world leaders at COP15. It makes recommendations for global action such as investing in sustainable transport infrastructure, introducing an international carbon trading system, and including climate change education as a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

“Climate change threatens our lives, our families and our future,” the declaration begins. “We commit to personal lifestyle changes that place the common good above our individual desires and current way of life. We are prepared to give all we have as long as there is the possibility of saving our planet.”

“We expect the same courage from you.”

For the full declaration, see the link on the right:





Children’s Climate Forum Declaration


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