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Youth-Led Solutions Summit Launch: it’s time to act for the planet

20 October 2020

On 19 October 2020, World YMCA and its partners launched the first Youth-Led Solutions Summit, as part of its wider new initiative to support young people providing solutions to critical global issues.

The focus of the first Summit is Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”), and for the next week, young leaders will participate in sessions and workshops to discuss practical ideas and solutions to implement to address the climate crisis.

During the launch, YMCA San Francisco President Emeritus Chuck Collins announced that USD 150,000 has been made available in the first round to support implementing ideas to progress SDG 13. Projects will be given between $1000 and $6000 broken down into three categories, – ‘seed’, ‘leaf’ and ‘tree’.

The first Youth-Led Solutions Summit had assembled some 80 ‘Solution Teams’ comprising over 600 participants from nearly 50 countries. Each can now apply for seed funding and have their ideas critiqued by business and science experts. The group will learn, share, discuss and act together.

The opening event was hosted by Canadian Kehkashan Basu, 20, a One Young World Ambassador, and Founder (at the age of 12) of the Green Hope Foundation. She said: “Climate Action for me is about obtaining Climate Justice. We can mitigate climate change only when we link it to Human Rights and Development”. The tone was set. During the session attended by 700 young environmental advocates, a succession of speakers shared their hopes, experiences and, at times, struggles.

“Our earth is crying out for help, we need to save it”

A group of young indigenous people, filmed in various countries, reinforced the strong link between human beings and Mother Earth: “The Earth is a living being where everything is connected, therefore we need to protect it in its entirety”.

Saul Moran, from Guatemala, was interviewed by Daniel Galán from YMCA Latin America and Caribbean. He pointed to the principle that must underpin everything we say and do about the environment: “We need to put aside selfishness. Empowerment is useless if we do not have empathy. Just as we take care of our own homes, let’s also take care of the people and the planet around us.”

Oliviah Tawarark, Head of Communications at the Africa Youth for Nature Network, a project born out of a WWF Africa youth conference, said: “Our purpose is to bring together different organisations from across Africa and support their environmental activities.” Oliviah is also the African representative in the Global Youth Action Team and in June 2020, she took part  in the workshop StandUp4Nature where young people learnt how to advocate for their cause, and reach out to stakeholders and donors.

Bertine Lakjohn, an Environmental Studies student in the US, was interviewed by Ashley Kolaya, Director of Curation and Coaching of TED-Ed. One summer, after studying in Japan, Bertine returned home to the Marshall Islands, and saw clearly the effects of climate change: “The weather was a lot hotter; we had a lot more rainfall; and we had more Mosquito-borne diseases”. This wake-up call led her to start environmental studies: “I invested myself in climate education and raising awareness, and I took part in climate camps”. She insisted that “any contributions – and any climate actions made by young individuals – are so important”.

Brazilian Anna Luísa Beserra, Founder & CEO of Safe Drinking Water For All, created a system to make rain water clean, safe and drinkable: “We have the responsibility, we have the voice and we have the technical knowledge”.

Her social business goes beyond a simple idea: “Our work is not only done by delivering water to the families. This is a complete project, with financing, training, and monitoring. We have had international awards and recognition”.

Dahni-El Giles, Founder of Uprhizer, introduced his “Optimist’s guide to the climate crisis”. He presented several scenarios about global temperature rises between 1.5 and 4 degrees centigrade. He then invited the participants to share in a ‘word cloud’ some ideas to solve the climate crisis, and then applied their suggestions to a simulation model.

He concluded: “There is hope. We have the possibility to do something”. He encouraged the participants to look at the bigger picture: “When you look at climate solutions, try to look at solutions which also solve other problems”. For instance, reducing travelling by plane contributes to reducing air pollution.

During the event, leaders appeared online to endorse and encourage young people in this climate journey.

World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee said: “Unleash your creativity. This summit is a safe space. And it’s your space. It is part of a bigger process to inspire, incubate and accelerate your ideas. It marks a real shift in how we work – not providing young people with solutions, but giving them the space to provide the world with solutions, themselves.  You’re not so much the leaders of tomorrow, as the changemakers of today”. See his message here.

WWF Director General Marco Lambertini stated: “At the end of the day, this is this generation, and not the next one, which has the greatest challenge but also the most exciting opportunity to drive this change”. See his message here.

“None of us need to feel like we are the whole puzzle”, said Adriana Stanovici of YMCA USA.  “We are all one piece of the puzzle. Together, we must and will act.” “This is not a one-time thing”, said Gloria Anyika. “It’s a whole new philosophy.”

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