Young people in Maldives call for stronger efforts to protect children from climate-induced disasters
Recommendations by young people to be presented at COP28, where UNICEF seeks to safeguard children affected by climate change, especially in Maldives
MALE, Maldives 26 October 2023 – Young people and children called on policymakers today to include them in stronger policies to tackle the impact of climate-induced disasters on children and communities in Maldives.
With about 80 per cent of islands being lower than one metre above the mean sea level, the islands of Maldives are extremely vulnerable to climate change and its associated impacts, particularly sea level rise. UNICEF Maldives in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology and the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change held a series of initiatives as the Youth Track to COP28 this week, under the overall theme - Climate Action in Maldives: Amplifying Youth Voices and Inspiring Action.
The Youth Track kicked off with a two-day Mock COP negotiation, followed by a three-day Youth Conference on Climate Action with the participation of Ambassadors and High Commissioners in Maldives. UNICEF and partners also brought young climate together to showcase their climate-related projects and innovations as part of the Conference.
At the end of the Youth Conference on Climate Action, 35 young participants from different islands from the Maldives, with support from civil society representatives, developed recommendations for policymakers and world leaders to be presented at the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to reflect young peoples’ voices on climate action. COP28 is a critical event for climate action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held from 30 November in Dubai.
“Today, me, a 15-year-old, might not be able to change the world. But I sure have the ability to change my world— change the minds of those in my world. My beliefs and my values. And I hope I’m able to make those in my world understand that they too can change their mindsets, and their values. I hope today my voice has reached you, inspired you, to try and make a change,” said Yaala Shameem, a 15-year-old participant of the Youth Conference.
At the conference organized by UNICEF, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, and the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change, the young people asked for policymakers and world leaders to do more and do better on climate action, such as:
- Invest more in sustainable infrastructure and services
- Strengthen climate justice and financing
- Equip young people with the right skills and tools to meaningfully contribute to decision-making processes on climate-resilience
“We want policymakers and world leaders to give us a seat at the table in decision-making processes on addressing the impacts of climate change,” said participants of the Youth Track to COP28. “We want them to provide us with opportunities to gain the necessary tools and skills to engage in national and global processes.”
The Minister of Environment Climate Change and Technology and the Maldives’ Special Envoy for Climate Change played an active role, continuing to guide and engage with young participants throughout the Mock COP Negotiations and the Youth Conference.
Speaking at the Conference, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Her Excellency Aminath Shauna remarked that the Youth Conference was, “a crucial step we take on the pathway to make sure that youth are involved within climate change dialogues and decision-making processes.” She further encouraged youth participants by urging them to “raise your voice to stir action and be the drivers of the change needed to tackle the climate crisis so that we, and our future generations, may not just survive, but thrive.”
“It is the young people who are the force for good and force for change. I see young people driving the climate agenda and doing things to fight against climate change. They can do more, and they can do better, and UNICEF is here to help them in this journey,” said Dr. Edward Addai, UNICEF Representative to Maldives when addressing young people and delegates at the conference.
Even though Maldives, like other countries in the world, is grappling with the pressing challenges of climate change, young people have a moderate level of understanding of climate change. A recent survey conducted by UNICEF revealed that 47 per cent of youth respondents were able to explain climate change and global warming. Since 55 per cent reported learning about climate change in school, better climate education for children and youth can help them be prepared for the future.
UNICEF Maldives looks forward to collaborating with the Government of Maldives to implement General Comment 26 on children’s rights as they apply to environmental protection and climate change in Maldives. The UNICEF Maldives climate resiliency flagship programme promotes climate-smart actions that would make islands safer for every child by:
- Creating a group of empowered and climate-smart young people and making spaces for them to engage actively in climate policy dialogues;
- Documenting and disseminating national and global climate-smart actions;
- Supporting the Government to implement and scale-up climate-smart, resilient, and child-friendly social services, infrastructure and initiatives;
- Providing training to fast-track preparedness, early warning, rapid detection, and response to emergencies.
“Children and young people are our future; they are also our present. They are the ones who will inherit from us. Engaging them and preparing them to be guardians of the climate is really the way to go to look after the climate, to nurture it, and to ensure that the climate becomes sustainable and looks after them,” added Dr. Edward Addai. “UNICEF is working on the ground so children in this country can hope for a safe & resilient future.”
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) works with UNICEF Country Offices in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to help to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. For more information about UNICEF’s work for children in South Asia, visit www.unicef.org/rosa and follow UNICEF ROSA on Twitter and Facebook.