Over 60 young people participates in 3-day climate forum in Lethem

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS), in partnership with the Regional Democratic Council of Region Nine (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo) and with support from UNICEF Guyana and the Inter-American Development Bank on Tuesday launched a three-day Youth Climate Forum for young people from across the region.

The objective of the forum is to provide young people with the opportunity to learn about climate change, build their skills to take climate action and participate in decision-making processes.

As such, more than 60 young people are participating in the event at the Industrial site in Lethem. The event will see learning sessions, round table discussions led by youth and engagements with local stakeholders and decision-makers.

Information booths will also highlight opportunities for young people in the region. The forum also expects to see the creation of an action plan by the young people that advocates for their involvement in policy processes, highlights climate change issues affecting their communities and identifies resources needed to take climate action and build resilience.

President of the SRCS, Leroy Ignacio explained that the community organization decided to host the forum due to the many impacts of climate change in the region. “We thought that engaging with the youths was one of the more effective ways to make behaviour change within our society.”

Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Sonia Parag attended the opening and emphasized the importance of forums like these with youth at the forefront in tackling climate change. “Sixteen percent of the world’s population are youths and what you are doing here is a small fraction of what the world needs. But the more you do it the more you can assist your country,” she said.

UNICEF Guyana is providing financial and technical support for the event and emphasizing that young people have a huge role to play in combatting climate change, Adolescent and Youth Development Officer, Jewell Crosse related that she is pleased to see the huge turnout of young people at the forum.

She said, “At UNICEF, we are committed to helping young people take action to protect their future and we do this by raising youth voices on the climate crisis and by increasing youth participation to address climate change, especially in vulnerable communities.”

Crosse encouraged the youths to utilize the forum to engage with government agencies and share their concerns and priorities for action.

“Guyana has shown great leadership on climate change as the Government has signed the Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action at our World Children’s Day observance last year. UNICEF is extremely pleased that as we continue to work with young people to tackle the climate crisis, that we have the Government of Guyana’s commitment to not only ensuring a bright future for children in Guyana, but for also ensuring their voices are heard and their needs are addressed,” Crosse related.

The opening of the forum saw an outpouring of support from several government agencies with booths from the ministries of Education, Health, Agriculture, Amerindian Affairs, Youth, Culture and Sports, Natural Resources, the National Insurance Scheme, The Guyana Revenue Authority and National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), among others.

The forum comes at a time when the region is feeling the effects of climate change with prolonged dry periods, likely intensified due to climate change, resulting in huge wildfires in the Rupununi region.

UNICEF’s Climate Landscape Analysis for Children (CLAC) in Guyana has identified regions one and nine as being the most severely affected by climate change. The population of these regions comprise mainly Indigenous people, who, to a great extent, depend on natural resources and other ecosystem services of their environment for their sustenance. This makes them very vulnerable to climate change, due to several factors that increase sensitivity and exposure, including dependence on ecosystem services and agriculture, and isolation from main infrastructure and transportation networks.

Recognising that children and young people are the single most affected group by the climate threat, and the need to support youth in vulnerable communities that are at the forefront of the climate crisis to take climate action, SRCS, with support from UNICEF Guyana, initiated the Young Climate Change Leaders Programme in Region nine.

In 2022, over 200 Indigenous youth benefitted from education and awareness on climate change, and a smaller group were trained in proposal writing to support them to secure resources to implement locally developed climate solutions.