Youth voices matter

Inger Andersen, ED, UNEP

“…Views of youth are important.  The way you have your engagement and carrying your leadership means a lot.  And the way in which you self-organize and the way which you express not necessarily your own individual views but the views of the broader constituency that you represent, the more carry the voice and the other at the same time we know there are leaders stepping up from time to time among student and youth movement and become the lightening role of activism and we should celebrate them as well because they enabled a broader voice and louder impact.  But for UNEP, which I have the great privilege of leading since June 15, as I step into this role, I am quietly aware that probably newer before has environmentalism and environmental action little more important.  Now there are people gone before me who have said the same thing, and I will say that they probably were right in their day and in their time. 

But where we are now, it is a moment in the planet’s trajectory that has never been journeyed before, because we as certainly as humans had an impact on this planet never before have we held the future of the very existence of humankind in our hand; never before has it been such that what we do or don’t do, the actions we take or don’t take, what we fail to do or what we will do, will determine the very security of humanity.  Now that statement in itself is absurd in its profoundness, because how can that we that these little species called the humans have impacted so deeply on this one planet that we know that we are at the point of risking our own very survival.  Now I don’t want to be catastrophic, I don’t want to be painting as if it’s dire, but I do want to say that it is serious, and I do want to say that the actions we take or fail to take will have grave consequences.  And so, whether it is about the topic desertification and land, biodiversity, climate change, pollution, chemicals, plastics and overconsumption each of these is a topic on which UNEP works. 

I would like to have a dialogue and to listen from youth.  I do want to thank you for the activism you had shown and for the engagement that you have demonstrated and for the leadership that you put forward every day.  Your voices matter.  And I am of the school that does not believes that it is about tomorrows agenda, I am of the school that believes that it is your agenda now and that you have the right to speak, and that you have the right to influence, you have the right to be heard.  Now I understand that I work in a multilateral organization where countries delegations have the prime resay, you understand that too.  But be sure to have sharp elbows, and be sure to be heard, because yours is the future and you have to hold people like myself accountable to that.”

Inger Andersen with Desertification Youth Forum

Excerpts from a Speech of Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP during an interactive dialogue with Desertification Youth Forum during UNCCD COP 14.