Youth Activist, Caroline Dodd, reports about the UN Climate Summit

Caroline Dodd, the youngest of 50 civil society representatives at the UN Climate Summit

Caroline Dodd, the youngest of 50 civil society representatives at the UN Climate Summit

I am extremely passionate about finding positive solutions to end climate change. I believe it is the most important issue facing the world today, and if left untouched, its effects will be felt by absolutely everyone on the planet. I was incredibly interested in the United Nations Climate Summit because I truly believe that the key to reversing climate change is large-scale action and policy changes, and the Climate Summit was to focus on exactly that. I was honored to receive a nomination and invitation to attend the UN Climate Summit on behalf of Plan International because I was among 49 other Civil Society representatives, all of whom were older than I am and had established careers in combating climate change. Of the fifty civil society representatives, I was honored to be the youngest.

While at the Summit, I attended a thematic discussion on Climate Science. The panelists in this discussion included Thomas Stocker, a Swiss climate scientist, Julia Marton-Lefevre of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Aleqa Hammond, the Premier of Greenland. Attending the discussion was John P. Holdren, Assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology, who incidentally played a role in the creation of my local Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. This discussion focused on the role of climate science in policy decisions, and how climate science must be a topic in which virtually everyone is well-versed in order to create climate action. The next thematic discussion I attended was titled Voices from the Climate Frontlines, which included moderator and British TV personality Femi Oke, and panelists President Evo Morales of Bolivia, Mary Robinson of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, and former human rights lawyer and current NBC News Anchor Ronan Farrow. Also on the panel were the three women who escorted me through the summit while I was there:  Sylvia Atugonza Kapello, Head of the Riamiriam Civil Society Network in Karamoja, Uganda, Alina Saba, Researcher and Community Organizer for the Mugal Indigenous Women’s Upliftment Institute/Asia Pacific Forum on Women in Nepal, Law and Development, and Christina Ora, Youth Activist, Pacific Youth Council in the Solomon Islands. This discussion focused on climate change as a social justice issue and how it disproportionately affects people in developing nations who lack the resources or infrastructure needed to prepare for and combat climate change and associated natural disasters. I was especially moved and inspired by this discussion because I realized that to address climate change is not just to address the physical effects, but also the injustices, prejudices, and disadvantages faced by many groups of people throughout the world in order to give everyone a chance to face climate change and help to reverse it.

I was the only youth representative chosen to attend the UN Climate Summit through the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), but there were ten other youth representatives chosen to attend the summit through other organizations. I had the privilege of interacting with these youth, all of whom are incredibly bright, motivated, and passionate about climate change and other global issues. I felt very empowered by the fact that I, as a young person, am not alone in my passion for finding solutions to combat climate change. Having youth voices participate in international discussions on climate change is pivotal and crucial to the climate change movement because though the young generation did not create climate change, it is we who are faced with the challenge of reversing it so that we and future generations may live prosperous lives on this beautiful Earth.

Caroline with her escorts, whom were also panelists in one of the discussions she attended

Caroline with her escorts, whom were also panelists in one of the discussions she attended

After the summit, I contacted a number of climate activists, politicians, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon to ask if they would like to contribute to a presentation I was giving at the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. I received word first from Bill McKibben, who is an environmentalist and founder of 350.org. Bill McKibben personally recorded a video of himself emphasizing the importance of youth activism in climate change, and voicing his longing to be in the beautiful Tupper Lake, where the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit is held. I also received word from Ban Ki-Moon, who sent a wonderful quote that I included in my presentation:

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time — a growing threat but also a compelling opportunity to put our world on a more sustainable path.  Climate impacts are growing; so is the cost of inaction.  Our future security and well-being depend on climate action today.  I applaud the steps that young people throughout the world are taking to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their environmental awareness.  The energy that they are dedicating to combating climate change will benefit the world for generations to come.  I will continue pressing world leaders to reach a meaningful climate agreement in Paris next year. Economists have spoken; science has spoken; people are taking to the streets; it is time for leaders to act.  Please raise your voices and tell your elected representatives and community leaders that you want climate action, now!  Thank you for your hard work and commitment.”

These were incredible responses from very well-known and inspiring individuals in the climate movement, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I am also very grateful and honored to have been a part of such an amazing internationally recognized event as the United Nations Climate Summit and I hope that I can utilize what I gained not only to educate others, but to one day create policies to help end climate change.

Caroline with her parents in front of the UN.

Caroline with her parents in front of the UN.

Links to thematic discussions:

Climate Science: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/2014/08/climate-science/

Voices from the Climate Front lines: http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/2014/08/voices-climate-front-lines/

Link to my presentation at the ADK Youth Climate Summit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEJqsI9LD-4&feature=share

Alma’s Experience at the 2014 International Day of the Girl Events

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International Day of the Girl

I was interested in participating in International Day of the Girl for multiple reasons. One of them was having the opportunity to meet youth from other countries. I haven’t had the chance to travel outside the U.S so I always find it interesting to learn someone else’s culture through a first person interaction. Another reason was being able to share why investing in girl’s education mattered. I didn’t grow up in the best household but education positively influenced me. Education gave me something to look forward to and I came across educators that believed in my potential, which in turn gave me the confidence to succeed. I feel that the same trend can be repeated world wide when girls are given a fair shot at education.

Events/Activities

The activities I was able to partake included being the Emcee for the Be Bold Youth Leadership Event and sharing how I was bold at the Because I am Girl Gala. I was so glad I was also able to emcee the event along with Kyle and Ari one of the girl’s I met at the YUGA Summit in 2013. It was my first time emceeing and I’m glad was able to do that with amazing people. One of the events all of the youth ambassadors participated in was the pink lighting of the Empire State Building in honor of International Day of the Girl. We all got to take pictures with Julianne Hough during the event. There were so many photographs that I almost felt blind afterwards but we had so much fun!

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Life Map

An activity that made a lasting impact to me was when the group of youth and chaperones shared their life map. A life map is made out of a series of key events that has impacted you as a person or has led you to where you are today. Parts of our lives were hard to share with others but I feel that we felt closer as a group afterwards. I will always remember this because sharing your life map is way of sharing a part of you with others.

Promoting Gender Equality

I learned that one of the ways to promote gender equality is through the media, storytelling, and one on one interaction with others. When I think about media the movie Girl Rising comes to mind. Girl Rising is about 9 girls who share the struggles they face while trying to attain an education. I feel that whoever watches this movie is immediately transformed and inspired to work towards gender equality. Storytelling and one on one interaction go in hand. Rabia and Lydia (Pakistan and Ugandan Delegates) come to mind when I think about this. Rabia shared her own experience with gender inequality in her country during her speech at the gala. I remember how Lydia was sharing her experiences one on one at some of the events I attended. I think that when the stories come from people that experienced the issues girls face, then people really start to listen.

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Ambassadors from Other Countries

While heading to the hotel my chaperone, Laura, told me my roommate was going to be Lydia from Uganda. I was so excited to meet her but after her long flight I would not be able to formally meet her until the following day. While putting my stuff away in the room Lydia woke up and jumped excitedly to greet me. Her energy was contagious and it was a start to wonderful week. When we had free time we would exchange music. I found it interesting how we liked some of the same music. I introduced her to some of the songs I liked and vice versa.

Another fun thing about interacting with youth ambassadors from Uganda and Pakistan was trying to learn their language. Sadrack and Lydia taught me phrases in their dialect and I learned some words from the Rabia and Sunaina. We had a lot of fun together and I simply loved learning from them.

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Get Involved!

There’s different ways others can get involved with International Day of the Girl. IDG is day where Plan and other organizations raise awareness about the challenges girls face around the world. Some of the ways you get involved is by showing others the Girl Rising movie, using the annual hash tag provided by Plan, and attending the annual Because I am a Girl Fundraising Gala.

Sara: YUGA was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life…

Sara Samir, 14, USABefore I went to the summit, I was just an adolescent interested in making a change in the world. I was not greatly educated about global issues prior to this week. This leadership summit changed that for me. I was not only educated on global issues, but I was also taught the steps and techniques to change and help solve them. In addition to acquiring this useful information, I also created many relationships with people that will support me in pursuing my goals. I was initially struck by the openness and friendliness of the counselors and directors. The bonds that evolved with my like minded peers will stay with me forever. This week absolutely exceeded my expectations.

As a part of the youth myself, I feel that it is essential for young people to know about and take action on global issues. Young people have unique opinions which should be taken into consideration; organizations such as YUGA allow these ideas to be heard. In addition, the youth tend to be energetic and determined, which will ultimately result in successful outcomes. Social media is now a key component of communication in today’s society and young people are constantly using it, so they will easily be able to spread ideas and make others aware of global issues. We, as the youth are the people that will have to deal with the effects of these issues so it is vital that we learn how to solve them, so we will not have to live with the negative outcomes of these problems.

For young people like me interested in global issues there are many actions you can take. It is always very important to stay up to date with what is going on in the world. Reading and watching the news is absolutely necessary to do if you are interested in global issues. YUGA provides young people with an ample amount of information to start to approach creating change on a global level. The two YUGA campaigns, Because I Am A Girl http://plan-international.org/girls/ and Walk4Wells, http://walk4wells.org/  both pinpoint two extremely important global issues that the participants of YUGA are helping to change. Walk4Wells helps to build wells in less fortunate countries where the people have an inadequate clean water supply. Because I Am A Girl helps raise awareness of the problem of gender inequality, and it helps to make improvements on girls’ lives, giving them access to protection, school, skills and livelihoods. These two campaigns are just a couple of the many things YUGA does in order to take action on global issues. YUGA teaches you how to start a YUGA chapter in your school, how to start and organize a campaign, and gives you the opportunity to apply for several conferences where your voice will be heard. In conclusion, this experience was invaluable and I am grateful to YUGA for giving me the opportunity to make the world a better place.

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