I have been quite overwhelmed with youth in the past few days, but I am not complaining. Being around young people always makes me feel lighter, more hopeful perhaps. I do get tired of hearing how “the youth of today” are lazy, useless, selfish, etc… I know so many who are quite the reverse. I have heard people speak about them as if they are an alien species – not actually quite human.
At the Youth Climate Change Conference 2017 last week the theme was: Our Climate, Our Voice, Our Change: Advancing Youth Action Through Partnerships for Global Impact. The emphasis on the word “Our” suggests that the organisers (the Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II – Ja REEACH II, with funding support from USAID) wanted the youth to take ownership of the present state of our climate – and the future of our planet.
Judging from their mood and activities at the Jamaica Conference Centre on October 10 and 11, the youth are up to the climate change challenge (try saying that quickly). Ja REEACH II received tremendous support from the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP), an initiative working in eight Caribbean countries. It is funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Prior to this, the third staging of the Youth Climate Change Conference, there were competitions in the visual and creative arts: posters, poetry, song, dance and video and a “Trashic” fashion segment. (Trashic – Get it? Recyclable material turned into chic fashion). Every Jamaican loves a fashion show!
The “Japanese connection” added an exciting new dimension to the Conference, this time around. The aim of this partnership is a lot of information sharing, expanding the incubation (and eventual use of) climate technology, prioritising adaptation measures and increasing access to clean energy. And, of course, strengthening networks to make these things happen. Naturally – as it always is with youth – despite a slight language barrier, the networking was pretty intense.
When I left on the evening of the second day, the delegates had returned to determinedly fighting their way through their conference declaration – sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, using the UN principle of consensus, under the careful guidance of USAID’s Gerald Lindo. I liked the way it was taking shape, and will share it with you when I can get a copy of it.
The eight countries in the J-CCCP are: Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname. Four youth delegates from each country were there – including four from Dominica, who kept up brave smiles and were, I think, a little surprised and touched by the special attention they received. I thought how brave they were, leaving behind their ruined small island – almost torn to pieces by Hurricane Maria – to come to Jamaica. I am still thinking about them: Enlister Baron, Annette Esprit, Ashred Norris and Shania Vital.
I am sharing with you faces and scenes from the Conference, and the words of the young people that rang in my head afterwards. In the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, who roared into the Caribbean just a few weeks earlier, there was an added poignancy to the meeting. Also, however, there was hope.
That is one thing we can depend on young people for: Hope. Curiously, Enlister, Annette, Ashred and Shania from Dominica brought it with them, for all of us.