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Rio + 20: Lifting up Children’s Voice on Climate Change in Viet Nam

By Sandra Bisin

During a three-day workshop in the coastal province of Quang Bing, in central Viet Nam, six young people were trained in filming and climate change, then planned, scripted and filmed  a 6-minute video on climate change-induced challenges faced by their communities. © UNICEF/ Viet Nam/2012/Bisin

Ha Noi, 18 June 2012“Everyone should feel they have a responsibility when it comes to climate change, and the first step we should take is to save energy”, 15 year-old Vo Giang Ha said proudly. “Children and young people are the most vulnerable to climate change, but they are also agents of change and can become part of the solution”, Ha added.

The young boy is one of a group of six young people aged 13-17 that were trained in filming and engaged in discussions around the theme of climate change, at a workshop in the coastal province of Quang Bing, in central Viet Nam, from 18 to 20 May. The three-day training was supported by UNICEF, in partnership with Viet Nam’s Youth Union – one of the country's largest mass organisations - and with funding from Norway. 

The young people also planned, scripted and filmed a 6-minute video telling the story of a fishing community in the province, where a number of homes and a school were washed away by more frequent and devastating storms. The film not only focuses on climate change-induced challenges increasingly faced by coastal communities of Viet Nam, but also on possible ways to fight against the odds and how communities and children can be part of the solution.

A difficult legacy for Viet Nam’s next generation
During the workshop a number of discussions and brainstorming sessions around climate change and sustainable development took place. “That’s not fair! As children, we have nothing to do with global warming, yet this is what we inherit from our parents and grand-parents”, said 15 year-old Hoang Mai Trinh at one of these sessions. “Young people are the next generation. They are exposed to new concepts and trends, they can definitely come up with new ideas to cope with issues of their times. They should be listened to as much as adults when it comes to climate change!”

“Last year there was a powerful storm and we were flooded. People living in rural areas were the most affected”,  14 year-old Truong Phuong Nhung remembers. © UNICEF/ Viet Nam/2012/Bisin

According to scientific data, Viet Nam ranks 13th of 170 countries deemed vulnerable to the impacts of climate change over the next 30 years, and is one of 16 “extreme risk” countries, due to its high level of poverty, dense population, exposure to climate-related events, its reliance on flood- and drought-prone agricultural land. In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified the Mekong Delta as one of three ‘extreme’ global hotspots in terms of potential population displaced as a result of mean sea level rise. By 2050, as many as one million people risk being displaced in the Mekong Delta.

“As children, we have nothing to do with global warming, yet this is what we inherit from our parents and grand-parents”, said 15 year-old Hoang Mai Trinh at the video workshop in  Quang Binh province. © UNICEF/ Viet Nam/2012/Bisin

According to Vietnamese government’s climate change scenarios, the average annual temperature is due to rise by over 2 degree Celsius by 2100 compared to the last decades of the 20th century. By 2100, it has been estimated the number of heat waves will double, the total annual rainfall will increase and the probability of extreme rainfall events and flooding will also increase. In Viet Nam, as in other developing countries, children are among those hit the hardest by the emerging impacts of climate change, although they have the least responsibility for its causes. The types of climate risks confronting children are diverse, ranging from direct physical impacts, such as cyclones, storm surges and extreme temperatures, to impacts on their education, psychological stress and nutritional challenges.

Agents of change
Illustrating the vulnerability of Viet Nam to natural disasters, in 2011, a series of tropical storms and typhoons filled the Mekong River to record levels, causing widespread flooding. “The Mekong Delta floods cost 89 lives, 75 of which were children. In other words: those who have least contributed to climate change are suffering most from its consequences. Since almost one in three people in Viet Nam are children younger than 18, this is a population group to be reckoned with”, says Ms. Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Viet Nam’s Representative. “Yet Viet Nam’s children and young people have knowledge on global issues threatening our planet, they are ready to bring about social change. As world leaders in the Rio + 20 Conference on sustainable development gather this week to discuss the future of our planet, they should include young people in these discussions and ensure they are part of the response to climate change”.

Adaptation solutions
During the filming exercise, the young people had the opportunity to interact with communities directly impacted by climate change-induced natural disasters and conduct investigations on the issue. They interviewed fishermen in the commune of Nhan Trach and Quang Binh province’s Committee for Disaster and Storm Control – whose role is to look at disaster preparedness and ensure availability of early warning systems. They also talked to workers at a dyke construction site meant to protect the village from upcoming storms and typhoons, and to young people involved in a reforestation project, which is one of the most effective forms of coastal protection.


The film by young people from Viet Nam’s Quang Binh province tells the story of a fishing community where a number of homes and a school were washed away by more devastating storms. © UNICEF/ Viet Nam/2012/Tran Phuong Anh

“We don’t think the government is listening enough to young people. They should do more of it. We hope through the video our voices will be heard by our leaders. We also hope this film will contribute to raise awareness of climate change in Viet Nam and let everyone know they can take action to reduce the impact it will have on our lives”, said Hoang Mai Trinh.

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Related info

The effects of climate change in Viet Nam and the United Nations (UN) responses

The Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has applied global climate change scenarios to Viet Nam with support from the UN and other partners. The global scenarios are taken from the Fourth Assessment by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. These are different global socio-economic scenarios associated with certain levels of future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reflecting more or less severe climatic changes.

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