OUR SUSTAINABLE TIMES:
COP24 & Youth Leadership for Climate Action
by Kehkashan Basu
NGOCSD-NY Youth Representative & the Director of Youth Leadership
The COP24 negotiations commenced in Katowice, Poland under the grim shadow of the IPCC 2018 report which spelt out, in no uncertain terms, the fact that we were losing the race to limit global warming to 1.5°C. One would have thought that this would prompt policy makers from all countries to look beyond the short term and utilize this platform to agree on aggressive targets to reduce emissions. However, the talks followed the same pattern of the previous years, dragging on beyond the 2 week schedule and into the wee hours of the following morning before some sort of consensus was reached. Even then, it lacked a sense of urgency and forceful intent which was a real disappointment.
As an 18 year old young person, I strongly believe that my generation is going to bear the consequences of the current state of inaction towards mitigating climate change. I am proud of being a Youth Representative for the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY which has been working tirelessly over the years to be the voice of change and bring together all stakeholders in demanding faster, time bound action to reduce emissions and take a holistic long term approach towards countering global warming. My generation is the last one that has the opportunity of taking actions to mitigate climate change before it is too late. While policy makers were behind closed doors at the COP24 venue, youth activists from across the world marched and raised their voices in unison outside the venue, demanding urgent action to reduce emissions, remove fossil fuel subsidies and adopt clean energy sources. The writing was on the wall, yet global leaders chose not to see nor act on it. Countries failed to agree on the rules for voluntary market mechanisms, pushing part of the process onto next year’s COP25 in Chile. The outcomes should not have come as a surprise to us given the fact that this year’s COP was held in a city surrounded by coal mines and where the air was laden with coal dust.
I am really concerned at the speed or rather the lack of it with which the climate talks have been progressing. The 2015 Paris accord gave us, the youth, a lot hope. Very little has actually changed at a ground level since then. Apart from adding several million tons of carbon dioxide into the air that we breathe, developed nations have done precious little to contain global warming. The major economies continue to pump billions of dollars of subsidies into fossil fuel production, building pipelines across forests and indigenous lands, decimating fragile ecosystems and pushing thousands of species towards extinction. This road of self-destruction needs to have some barriers and it is upon us, the youth, to take on the mantle. The first step is elect leaders who share our vision, while joining hands and demanding at every forum and platform to move towards clean energy. It is not an easy road but as George Bernard Shaw once said, “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.”
“Turn Your Passions into Actions for Change”
May & June 2018
A Cry for Freedom
by Kehkashan Basu
Founder & President of Green Hope Foundation
2016 International Children's Peace Prize Winner
NGOCSD-NY Honorary Adviser & Youth Lead for the NGOCSD-NY
Empower Yourself: Write Your Story
Initiative for Anti-Bullying & Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence
On 22nd April 2003 – an 18 year old girl has acid poured on her face in an act of sexual violence. Her name is Sonali Mukherjee and she is an icon in India today for her bravery.
October 9th 2012 – a 15 year old girl is shot, because she wanted to go to school. The world knows her today as Malala Yousufzai. We know about them, because these are just a handful of incidents which the media has picked up.
The harsh reality is that around the world, there are more than 2 million girls much younger than me, enslaved in brothels and even though child marriage is banned, there are over 25 million child brides.
This is the irony of our times. On one hand we get excited about hyper-loops and space travel while in another part of the world women still struggle to come out of the shackles of the dark ages. Girls and women continue to be victims of violence and abuse despite us being in the 21st century. Age old social practices and archaic beliefs continue to hamper our freedom and equality. The impacts are felt and seen more in third world nations but they are present even in most modern and so called “progressive” societies too.
Everyday, everywhere girls and women face violence and abuse – simply because we are girls or women. This must change. But change does not come on its own – one must drive it oneself and not wait to receive it on a platter. Every person, young or old, boy or girl has the ability to be a change-maker and be strong enough to live a life of dignity and my journey so far is living proof of that.
I have been a victim of cyber bullying and abuse when I was in junior school. The perpetrator was the family of school senior who threatened me with violence and slandered me on social media. It was a harrowing experience, but I came out of it with the support of my parents who gave me the courage of speaking out against it and going public about my ordeal. I spoke about it in a television interview in a local channel. This scared off the perpetrator and it proved to me that bullies are essentially cowards – if you stand up to them they will back down.
Since then, I have made it my mission to raise awareness about this issue and speak at forums globally to build a movement to stop violence against women and bullying.
Gender equality and women's empowerment should no longer be a topic of debate or discussion. We cannot have different sets of rules and opportunities for one half of humanity. The dream of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals will depend largely on how successfully civil society empowers women and girls from all walks of life. It is imperative that we create a world of equal opportunity for both women and men as this will be the determining factor of true global progress.
As an Honorary Adviser of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY I'm proud be a member of the NGOCSD-NY initiative “Empower Yourself: Write Your Story.” Together we help people of all ages in overcoming the guilt and shame that comes from these traumatic situations.
November 19, 2017
Youth for COP23 & Beyond
By Kehkashan Basu
Founder of Green Hope, NGOCSD-NY Youth Leader
Our planet is at the edge of a precipice and we have only ourselves to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. History will either remember our generation as one that was bold enough to look beyond short term economic gains or one which put our planet firmly on the course of self-destruction. The current signs are ominous and yet, most of us, choose to remain blissfully unaware of the consequences. Polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, typhoons and hurricanes are wreaking havoc, forest fires are choking our skies and fossil fuel driven economies are turning our cities into veritable gas chambers. This escalating environmental degradation has given rise to a new phenomenon – “climate refugees.” Millions are forced to migrate from their homes and countries devastated by floods, droughts and rising sea levels as a consequence of climate change and a large portion of these migrants are, unfortunately, children. Changing climate impacts our right to life, to health, access to education, to food and shelter, and in the case of migration from disaster zones, we suffer as a consequence of being uprooted from a stable setup to one that is fraught with uncertainty and exploitation. This must change and this is why young people like me are speaking out and demanding the right to live with dignity, because we are the citizens of tomorrow --- but we will not live to see tomorrow if our today is not taken care of. Environmental apathy must be done away with and this was the message which I, along with my team members of Green Hope, reiterated during COP23 and COY13 in Bonn. Green Hope conducted a workshop at COY13 titled “Impacts of Climate Change on Sustainable Consumption.” Addressing a full house of youth activists during the workshop, we emphasized the fact that climate change is the harshest reality of our times and we can see its impacts all around us. A panel of youth leaders from the Netherlands, Mexico, France, Lebanon and Yemen also spoke at this workshop sharing their views on the linkages between climate change and sustainable consumption. Green Hope always uses different modes of communication to convey its messages and during the workshop, we also performed a self-composed song on Climate Justice. Several of our members also joined the workshop via video link from Dubai.
During this three day COY13 conference, Green Hope put up an info-booth through which we interacted with hundreds of visitors, using interactive methods to spread awareness about climate change impacts. The visitors to the booth also wrote their eco-pledges on hand cutouts and stuck them to a Tree of Hope.
Green Hope is one of the partners of World Bank’s Connect4Climate initiative and we joined in their “Uniting4Climate” Global Digital Surge which sought to reach out to millions of people across the world connecting them via the social media, during COP23 showing the world that climate action demands a global response - and that includes everyone: cities, businesses, youth, the arts and governments at every level. As part of this activation, Green Hope conducted a “Twitter campaign” which engaged young people from different countries demanding youth empowerment in the climate change process.
The Paris Climate Accord had given the world a clear roadmap to address climate change impacts and COP23 could only partially live up to its promise of delivering on the commitments. It is imperative for young people to influence their governments to act decisively, keeping the long term benefits of our planet in perspective. Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Every day of inaction and procrastination is bringing our planet closer to annihilation. As “future generations,” the onus is on us, the youth, to bring about change and create a future that is just, peaceful, sustainable and equitable.
The Outlook for Youth Leadership on Climate Action and Sustainable Development
Submitted by: Ms. Kehkashan Basu
Founder of Green Hope
2016 International Children’s Peace Prize Winner
NGOCSD-NY Honorary Adviser for Youth Leadership & Climate Action
Our world today has the highest number of children and young people more than ever before. The future, ostensibly, belongs to us, but we are helpless to change or influence the present that will determine the way we live. Our dignity, or rather indignity, is determined by the insatiable hunger of the global economic powerhouses which turn virgin rainforests into ugly mining pits and pollute the pristine water of our rivers with toxic chemicals, pushing thousands of species to the brink of extinction. This is the harsh reality that stares us in the face , but many of us choose to either look away or shrug helplessly thinking it is someone else’s problem.
This must change and this is why young people like me are speaking out and demanding conservation of the environment and the right to live with dignity, because we are the citizens of tomorrow --- but we will not live to see tomorrow if our today is not taken care of.
This led me to establish Green Hope in 2012, on my return from Rio+20 to engage, educate and empower young people to take actions on mitigating climate change, achieve biodiversity conservation , promote the use of renewable energy , gender equality , sustainable consumption, social upliftment and future justice. Green Hope runs a lot of environmental activities such as recycling of waste, cleanups on beaches and mangroves, tree planting and awareness campaigns engaging hundreds of young people in the process. We conduct “Environmental Academies” which are workshops and conferences, conducted “by youth – for youth”, through which we spread awareness about various aspects of sustainability. Green Hope now has collaborations and chapters in 10 countries across the globe with over 1000 young people engaged as volunteer members.
My advocacy work has been further strengthened by my appointment as the Honorary Advisor for the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY opening new avenues to engage a greater section of my fraternity. It is a privilege for me to have this role and it enhances my ability to convey the needs of young people in making a meaningful difference to the sustainable development process.
I feel immensely humbled to have been awarded the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize. There were a record number of 120 nominees from 49 countries and it is a huge honor for me to be chosen as the winner. I believe the jury recognized the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability and the need for children to be involved in driving this change while deciding on the winner. People will now know that children's rights and environmental protection are connected and extremely important for the future generations.
Our rights can never be secured if the environment that we live in continues to be plundered and degraded wantonly. Future Generations deserve to inherit an environment in the same pristine conditions that our forefathers did. More species have been obliterated in the past century than in the entire documented history of our planet. Climate change threatens our survival yet policy makers continue to ignore the dire consequences of global warming, while our energy hungry economies choke the atmosphere through fossil fuel emissions.
Environmental apathy is at the root of this problem and this must be done away with. Young people, whose future is at stake, are extremely concerned about the desecration of the pristine beauty of our environment. It is time for us to take action and take charge of our destiny.
Global Common Goods: Security and Realism by Jonathan Granoff
The winter 2015 edition of International Law News, the publication of the American Bar Association's International Law Section, focuses on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, which were to be developed between 2000 and 2015. In this special issue, the contributing lawyers demonstrate that the rule of law is one of the main cornerstones in the implementation of these goals.
In his contribution to the ILN, Jonathan Granoff writes that the critical and existential threats we face in the twenty-first century require cooperation and the establishment of international legal regimes, "the pursuit of which will amplify the capacity of nations to work together and find common ground in addressing issues where current differences preclude critical short-term progress." He compares the ad hoc way by which legal regimes are emerging at the global, regional, and national level, with the far more stable intentional legal regime that regulates global commercial matters, and calls on lawyers to actively advocate for treaty regimes to protect the global common goods: stabilizing the climate, protecting the oceans and rain forests, and insuring that nuclear weapons are never used.
Read "Global Common Goals and Goods: Security and Realism," or download the entire issue of ILN.
A Ray of Hope
The Rann of Kutch in the Indian state of Gujrat is one of the most desolate and arid regions in the world. It’s a vast, barren land of salt marshes with very little vegetation and means of subsistence. This arid landscape is one of the major sources of salt not just for India but globally. Temperatures during the day soar to above 50 deg C while the nights are bitterly cold. These salt marshes are home to migrant labourers, called “Agarias” who toil in pitiful conditions to manually extract salt through natural evaporation of the sea water. They live in temporary shelters with no electricity and trek on bare feet across this vast wilderness, in search of work. Dubai based youth organisation, Green Hope UAE, which works on sustainable development believes in engaging all sections of civil society, especially those who are marginalized, in the road to progress. With this objective, a team of three Green Hope members, comprising of its 15 year old Founder, President Kehkashan Basu, Pragna (age: 14) and Erin (age: 13) collaborated with Cummins Middle East and travelled to Zainabad, a village on the edge of the salt pans of Rann of Kutch in Gujrat , India. They carried with them a cargo of 100 solar rechargeable lights and several cartons of books to distribute to the children of the “salt farmers." At Zainabad, they were assisted by a prominent local business and social entrepreneur Mr. Dhanraj who has established a school for the underprivileged children, including those of the salt pan workers. The Green Hope team conducted a half day workshop at this school, spreading awareness about the sustainable development goals, the current state of the environment and the important role of young people in mitigating climate change. Thereafter they donated the books that they had carried all the way from UAE, to the school library. Kehkashan and her team, thereafter forayed into the arid salt pans with their cargo of solar lamps. The huts of the salt farmers were spread far and wide across the vast Rann of Kutch, with each hut several kilometers away from the other. Each farmer family thus lives, works and tries to survive in isolation as they extract salt from marshes. The blistering heat of the sun and cold winds of the desert night, combined with the constant exposure to the corrosive salt make every day of their lives one of misery and a struggle to make it to the next day. Mortality is high and their children have little or no access to healthcare or education. Traveling across this harsh landscape on a SUV driven by Mr Dhanraj, the Green Hope team went from hut to hut distributing the solar lamps. Pragna and Erin opened the packs and demonstrated to the Agarias how the lamps work on solar energy. According to Pragna “the look of pure of joy on their faces as they saw the lamps light up made our effort worthwhile." The Green Hope team traversed several hundred square kilometers, treveling deep into the night, reaching out to a hundred huts with these lamps. Erin said “Tonight 100 huts across the Rann will light --- it is really fulfilling that we were able to bring a ray of hope to their lives." The following day, Green Hope joined the children of the Zainabad village school to plant 25 Neem and Jetropha trees as a mark of solidarity and Climate Justice with the ongoing Climate Change Conference in Paris. This project was Green Hope’s was first step of using clean energy for the benefit of civil society and encouraged by its success, the team plans to build on it and light up the lives of all salt farmers in the Rann of Kutch.
We held our monthly NGOCSD-NY meeting with a Special CSW60 session Co-Hosted by the Mission of Sri Lanka to the United NationsFriday, March 18th at the Mission. The meeting was on "Domestic Violence Against Women & Girls: A Major Obstacle to Women's Empowerment." We were honored to have joining us: Honorable Ms. Chandrani Bandara Jayasingha, Minister for Women and Child Affairs in Sri Lanka; Honorable Mrs. Sicily K. Kariuki, Cabinet Secretary, the Republic of Kenya, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs; Honorable Mrs. Nana Oye Lithur, Honorable Cabinet Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection Republic of Ghana; Honorable Ms. Carolyn B. Maloney, U.S. Congressional Representative of New York District 12; Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Deputy Executive Director of UN Women. We were very grateful to H.E. Dr. Amrith Rohan Perera, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN and Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka for their outstanding and generous support. During our meeting we put forth a Global Call to Action to Break the Cycle of Domestic Violence so we truly Leave No One Behind.
Please look under NGOCSD-NY EVENTS on our website for other activities CSW60.
Signing the Paris Agreement on Earth Day 2016:
At United Nations Headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016 over 170 member states signed the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change making way for a process that should begin setting standards for our sustainable future, globally. Never before have so many countries signed an agreement on the first available day. The signatures came on Earth Day, the worldwide day in support of environmental protection. We all are stakeholders in our sustainable future and we must truly leave no one behind. (Lindsay, If you can download a photo of the SG at the signing and Leonardo DeCaprio at the UN signing that would be great and add it to this section, thanks.)
Finance for Development:
The ECOSOC Forum on Finance for Development was held April 18-20 with the inaugural ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The theme of the Forum was "Financing for sustainable development: follow-up to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda." According to its mandate, the Forum would address the follow-up and review of the Financing for Development outcomes and the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The modalities of participation of those utilized at the international conferences on financing for development.
Check back for updates in the coming months.
NGOCSD-NY TEAM BLOGS:
Who should be the next head of UN Habitat? By Felix Dodds
So you want to go out on a date with someone from the Statistical Commission meeting what should you say to make them think you are clever? By Felix Dodds
Guest Blog Ambassador Bleich on Trump, disruptive technology, and the role of education in a changing economy By Felix Dodds
Now out: Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals: A transformational agenda for an insecure world By Felix Dodds, Ambassador David Donoghue and Jimena Leiva Roesch