Youth Leadership Event – Reflection

In the series of articles by our Youth Newsroom, Tshegofatso Matlou reflects on the Youth Leadership Event at CAS2021, while her country South-Africa experienced yet another cyclone.

Southern Africa is currently being affected by a cyclone called Eloise. This cyclone has displaced many in Mozambique and has made its way to South Africa. The Kruger National Park had to close one of its gates due to overflowing rivers. As I type this piece, we are currently experiencing heavy rainfall with floods in other parts of the country. It is with this experience of climate change that I entered into the Climate Adaptation Summit on Monday, 25 January 2021.

Youth leadership. What does it mean and what does it look like in relation to climate adaptation? These are some of the questions that I had been asking myself in the weeks leading up to the Summit, particularly the youth leadership session. The youth leadership anchoring event promised to bring young leaders and decision makers from across the globe into one conversation on the role of youth in climate adaptation.

Ms Glimina Chakor, Vice Mayor of Groningen said, “The voice of youth is very important in the climate adaptation debate,” and this conversation proved that.

H.E. Mr Ban Ki-moon, was the keynote speaker of the event. He spoke on how climate change has endangered our communities across the globe and how it has exacerbated poverty and inequality at all levels. He thanked all young people who have contributed to the call to action and reminded them that their perspectives are key for the adaptation agenda.

What I loved about many of the speakers in this session is that they gave real life examples of how climate change has impacted communities before calling on collective action. Not only was this effective in describing the issue at hand but it also made one feel a sense of responsibility in responding to the challenge.

A number of young people explained and presented their Global Youth Call to Action on Adaptation virtually. It is amazing that this took place during the youth leadership session because it shows that young people are talking the talk and walking the walk.. It ] shows that young people are willing to take initiative and put in the work to make their goals a reality.

The intergenerational dialogue was one that I particularly enjoyed as it brought together different generations under one collective struggle. There was an exchange of questions and answers between the two groups in which all participants acknowledged their role in creating the change we want to see in the world.

The diversity in the young participants in terms of gender, race, religion, occupation and country of origin was refreshing. It served as a reminder that the fight for climate action knows no borders, background, race, gender, or religion. It impacts all of us therefore all of us need to be part of the conversation.

The Youth Leadership Program of the Global Center of Adaptation was launched at the end of the event. Its five central pillars are, ‘connect, educate, innovate, advocate and participate.’ This moment was so powerful in showing that the conversation has just started and that the commitment of world leaders and CEO’s is real. The Global Center of Adaptation in collaboration with other stakeholders is acting on their promises to support young people in their efforts and is certainly building capacity.

My main takeaway from this session is to embrace challenges as opportunities. Opportunities to educate, to learn and to do better. In the words of Ban Ki Moon, ‘Young people have spoken, we must listen and together we must act.’

Tshegofatso Matlou