Ensuring the meaningful participation of children and youth in Asia in climate justice

The main banner of the Asia Regional Dialogue on Climate Justice for Children, Youth and Future Generations. © OHCHR, UNDP, UNEP, UNICEF

When a young climate activist from Pakistan joined other children and youth from across Asia at a Regional Dialogue on Climate Justice, in May, little did she know that her country would soon be hit by the most severe flooding in its recent history. Scientists believe it was likely caused by human-induced climate change.

The activist was selected by her peers to share their collective ideas and experiences at the event.

The first “Asia Regional Dialogue on Climate Justice for Children, Youth and Future Generations,” held from 28 to 30 May, focused on climate change and its impacts on young people, their hopes and dreams and how they could become agents of change.

Co-convened by the OHCHR Regional Office for South-East Asia, the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UNICEF and other local partners, the Regional Dialogue provided a platform for children and youth to learn, inspire one another and discuss how to engage in meaningful climate action.

The event gathered together more than 986 children and youth between nine and 35 years of age, who had shared their experiences and ideas in 31 national consultations held in 12 Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam. The Regional Dialogue enabled the participants to discuss the ideas, plans and goals that emerged from those enriching consultations.

“[Children] are already suffering some of the worst effects of environmental destruction and climate change,” said Katia Chirizzi, Deputy Representative of the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia. “The Regional Dialogue sought to ensure that the best interests of children and youth are placed at the core of relevant policies and that they…can contribute and participate meaningfully in any decisions that affect them.”

“[T]his conference and these discussions…mean so much to young people like me and…people across the region who see this venue [as an opportunity] to influence reality and build a movement to create a better reality and a better understanding of our world,” said Louise Mabulo, while sharing her experience when Typhoon Ulysses hit her home in the Philippines, in 2020, forcing her and her family to flee for their lives. The Philippines is one of the countries in Asia that is most adversely affected by climate change.

“May the fire of hope that sparked in us during this event keep us going as we continue to tackle climate change and climate justice,” said a nine-year-old boy from South Korea. The country’s capital city, Seoul, was subjected to the heaviest rain in a century, in August, which experts confirmed was due to climate change. “The protection of our planet is an intergenerational responsibility. We merely inherited this home from past generations. We must take good care of it or [improve it] so that the next generations can also enjoy it,” he said.

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