Posted by : Posted on : 28-Sep-2019

Acknowledging the potential of the youth in the Solomon Islands and youth activism in the Pacific region over climate change

I wrote the other day of 78 Solomon Islands students having just graduated from the Australia Pacific Training College (APTC and joining the other 1900 students from the Solomon Islands that had graduated over the past few years from the APTC.

I raised some concern over what I perceive as the mismatch in the growing number of graduates and the few job opportunities for them at home and overseas.

The youths in the Solomon Islands have great potential and many, I suspect, feel frustrated by not having work and equally concerned about the growing threat of climate change impacting on their homes, livelihoods and families.

Some youths have started an organic vegetable garden to gain some income and other youths have begun to conserve the marine-eco system by rehabilitating local mangrove forests.

Such commendable efforts have, in a sense, been augmented by the tremendous work undertaken by Ms Millicent Barty both at home and overseas in her efforts as a communications consultant and women’s right advocate.

Millicent, the former Queen’s Young Leader Award Winner in 2018 has just been selected out of 5,000 applicacants to receive the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Scholarship and will shortly travel to London to attend the ‘One Young World Summit.’

Millicent’s work in the Solomon Islands is further supported by the efforts of the two daughters of the late Sir George Lepping, the former Governor General of the Solomon Islands.

I continue to be impressed by many young Solomon Islanders advocating for their country and the Pacific region and by those demonstrating leadership and courage in the face of many hardships.

In a week when climate change has been at the forefront of talks at the UN Summit on climate change, the youth from the Pacific region have been active in having their voices raised on the world stage.

 “A teenager from Palau attending the Summit said young people were asking leaders to take action to save the islands that families depend on.

Seventeen-year old Carlos Manuel is from Koror in Palau and said everyone has the right to enjoy the planet and that right must be protected.

He said his generation is trying to prevent climate change for future generations and that is why he's part of a group of teens taking a legal case to the Committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He said in Palau families' rights are being violated and people are being forced from their homes by rising sea levels.

"Losing a home is not that easy. Especially if your ancestors have lived there for hundreds of years. Our future depends on them.”

"So, I'm asking that our leaders must act now, while we still have an island to live in. Because I don't want our island to disappear and be swallowed up by the ocean. We're islanders and we depend on our island."

He said he had seen increasingly high tides and storm surges force many people living near the beach, including one of his good friends, to abandon their homes.

Sea level rise is also threatening Koror's only hospital, and the government is being forced to relocate it further inland.”

The legal case Carlos spoke about, saw sixteen child petitioners from 12 countries around the world, including children from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and Palau, present a landmark official complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on Monday to protest lack of government action on the climate crisis.

The child petitioners, aged between eight and 17, alleged that Member States’ failure to tackle the climate crisis constitutes a violation of child rights. They urged the independent treaty-body to intervene and call on Member States to take urgent action to protect children from the devastating impacts of climate change.

The complaint was filed through the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a voluntary mechanism which allows children or adults on their behalf to appeal directly to the United Nations for help if a country that has ratified the Protocol fails to provide a remedy for a rights violation.

It was later announced at a press conference hosted at UNICEF Headquarters in New York, the complaint aimed to inspire the urgent action needed to curb global heating and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.  

The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by the majority of Pacific Island countries and Territories. We support children coming together, taking a stand and asking their leaders questions on what they are doing to combat climate change so that children inherit an environment in which they will thrive,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.

UNICEF, in a subsequent statement, said it supported the child petitioners exercising their right to bring complaints via the communication procedure of the Third Optional Protocol.

Also last week many thousands of youths marched through Wellington and other cities and towns in New Zealand last week demanding action on climate change.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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