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At a glance: United States of America

At Global Kids Conference, high school students debate environmental issues

© UNICEF USA/2007/Gallegos
A participant at the 2007 Global Kids Annual Conference in New York takes notes during a workshop on water.

By Rachel Bonham Carter

NEW YORK, USA, 26 March 2007 – Six hundred teenagers gathered in New York on Friday to debate environmental issues at the 2007 Global Kids Annual Conference entitled, ‘Do you know where your environment is?’ While experts from UNICEF and other organizations helped to guide discussions, the event was entirely youth-organized and youth-led. 

“The opportunity for a young person to go to a conference that is completely run by and for youth can be a transformative experience,” said Global Kids Online Leadership Programme Director Barry Joseph. “It shows them the possibilities of what can happen when youth are given the resources and are supported to be in charge and make a difference.”

The day was split between group workshops in the morning, which focused on ‘indicators for a healthy, sustainable environment’, and separate sessions in the afternoon, which covered a variety of issues, including:

  • The impact of war on the environment
  • Environmental justice
  • Global warming and climate change
  • Food, water, children’s rights and the environment.
© Global Kids
The 2007 Global Kids Annual Conference was streamed live in the virtual online world, Second Life.

Online in Second Life

“I was very impressed with the young facilitators,” said UNICEF Programme Advisor Donna Goodman, who spoke at the workshop on water. “The kids were very well prepared and well-informed. The value of working with kids in industrialized countries is to raise awareness.

“The water cycle on this planet is all connected so the more kids that know how they can support each other and connect to kids around the world, the better. Youth advocacy is really the key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” added Ms. Goodman.

Students from over 50 public schools and youth organizations took part in the conference at the New School in Manhattan. It was also streamed live online in the virtual world Second Life, where it reached young people and educators around the world. The aim was to help young people examine local and global perspectives on critical environmental issues and potential solutions.

UNICEF Voices of Youth member Mariel, who is from Mexico, took part in various events in Teen Second Life last week in the build-up to the conference. She helped to raise awareness of the event by facilitating online discussions amongst youth and by hosting tours of the virtual buildings created in Teen Second Life during the UNICEF World Fit For Children contest, which was held in December 2006.



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