Pacific youth leaders at the Global Biennial Conference on Small States in Samoa have called for solidarity among young people to urgently address climate change and halt the existential threat to future generations.
Young leaders were speaking at an intergenerational breakfast dialogue, convened by the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network with the support of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
They presented innovative solutions to improve the ability of their countries to respond to disasters by resisting damage and recovering swiftly, generally known as ‘building resilience’. They also launched a policy toolkit, Youth Entrepreneurship in the Blue and Green Economy, in the Pacific.
This toolkit helps young people contribute to sustainable development by creating ‘green’ products such as renewable energy or climate migration tools. They can also develop sustainable ocean-based solutions in sectors such as fisheries and tourism.
Speaking at the event, Sionlelei Mario, from the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network, said: “It is an inalienable right to ensure those who face the brunt of disasters are at the forefront of response strategies and policymaking.”
Commonwealth director of Economic,Youth & Sustainable Development, Prajapati Trivedi, added: “Over many years the Commonwealth has made concerted efforts to encourage youth entrepreneurship as a pragmatic strategy to addressing spiralling youth unemployment and to positively harness young people’s potential.
“This policy toolkit can contribute to the social, economic and environmental innovations of young people which are critical to driving sustainable development at national and global levels.”
Attendees at the conference included government officials from Commonwealth countries as well as climate advocates, young leaders and representatives from development partners.
Assistant chief executive officer of Samoa’s Ministry of Finance, Lilomaiava Samuel Ieremia, described young people as the “real opportunity” for our future. He added: “The Government of Samoa has introduced a new curriculum to educate young people how to prepare and respond when a disaster strikes.
“We also started community-based initiatives to engage with young people to learn how their innovative ideas can help us better withstand the impact of disasters.”
Joseph Sapati Moeono-Kolio, a Samoan from 350 Pacific Climate Warriors, said: “Until we make a concerted effort across all sectors to co-create a space and to practice an inter-generational approach for the talents and skills of our young people, we risk perpetuating the same mistakes that got us into this mess.”
Young leaders also presented key toolkit topics such as:
The Commonwealth recognises the urgent need to involve young people in global climate action as 60 per cent of its people are under the age of 30. The toolkit contributes to the 2018 Commonwealth leaders’ mandate on “creating meaningful employment opportunities”.