This is a blog piece I wrote for the One Young World summit of 2014:
The United Nations declared 2014 to be the year of ‘Small Island Developing States’, SIDS, and this year islanders made sure that “we raised our voices, not the sea level”. SIDS are often appreciated for their beautiful beaches and turquoise seas, but this also means that the islands lie only a few centimetres above sea level. The risk of the sea submerging the islands, together with its people and biodiversity, is relentless. Our existence is under constant threat from the actions we contribute to the least.
The Seychelles lies between four and ten degrees south of the Equator in the Indian Ocean, and is no stranger to the effects of climate change. In April 2013 the Seychelles reached a temperature of 34.8 degrees Celsius, which is up from the normal 31-32 degrees Celsius. Sea levels have been rising over the last century at a frightening rate and still continue to do so, SIDS such as the Seychelles are even more vulnerable to these drastic changes.
Coral reefs - our defenders from rising sea levels - are affected by ocean acidification. Coastal erosion varies, but on average, research shows that coastal erosion is at a rate of 50 centimetres per year. With 85 per cent of human settlement and infrastructure located along the coast of the Seychelles, people will be greatly affected by the increase in natural disasters; from extensive coastal flooding to devastating landslides. People have already suffered extensive damage to their homes, as well as local infrastructure.
With the stakes so high, young people cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand, so to speak, and we must take responsibility, along with the necessary action, to tackle the issue of climate change. Young people are the leaders of today and we are lucky enough to have the knowledge and passion for our voices to be heard. With this in mind, from SIDS, we created our own legal entity - the SIDS Youth AIMS Hub, SYAH.
SYAH is a newly-founded youth-led NGO. Its main focus is on advancing and implementing youth led sustainable development in SIDS in the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean and Southern China Sea (AIMS). Their headquarters, based in Mauritius, has an objective to provide a dedicated network that connects young people working for sustainable development in the SIDS and AIMS regions.
We empower and engage young people to play an active role in the sustainable development of their country, and beyond. We believe that young people must participate in sustainable development; both in the policy implementing, and decision-making processes. Through a sustainability programme - an interactive presentation with an envisioning exercise conducted in each country - We are educating young people on how to achieve global sustainability both at home, and in the wider community.
At a regional level, 450 young people so far benefitted from the sustainability programme. In order to bring the voices of the young people from the small region of the Seychelles to the rest of the world, I initiated the idea for a national youth consultation on sustainable development, which invites young people to create an outcome document which would recommend partnerships to achieve a sustainable future. The ‘Maison Queau de Quincy outcome document’ made its impact for its emphasis that we can profit through conservation. Simple acts such as planting trees all contribute towards tackling the growing problem of global change.
Climate change is not only a problem for island nations; it is a global emergency, and we all have a responsibility to protect our home planet. Below are some tips on how you can create your regional network focused on promoting sustainable development:
- Your starting point: network and find people like you who are passionate about sustainable development. Social media platforms are a fantastic resource - communication is key. Find out when your country is hosting or attending a regional meeting where young people will be present.
- Setting up: As interest peaks, host a meeting in a chosen country with at least two representatives from different regions to draft and vote on the statute of the organisation. Elect Board members, draft a plan of action, and officially launch the organisation.
- Action plan: When deciding on regional priorities, each country can list areas of importance and the common areas will be regional priorities. Programmes can be initiated in the group to address the issue, or if programmes already exist in one region, they can be implemented in other regions.
- Work locally: Each representative will return home and set up the association nationally. An important tip: You will need to register your association by using an amended statute. Implement your ideas and knowledge and help protect your future and the future of generations to come.
Imagine your favourite place. Now imagine it is gone. With the impending threat of climate change, that is our everyday reality.