We´re excited to pass along the news about some really energized youth from the Caribbean who are planning big things for October 24th and beyond. This past August, 30 Caribbean youth from 13 countries converged in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN)´s 4th Youth Exchange.  As a part of the week long Exchange, 350.org worked with CYEN to organize a 3-day long training on climate change advocacy, media, and the UN process.  In addition, the youth there produced the Santo Domingo Caribbean Youth Declaration on Climate Change, which calls for 350ppm – you can download the statement here.  Please watch the video from the training above and read the article (many thanks to Panos Caribbean) below for more information about how Caribbean youth are taking action.  For more info on CYEN, visit their website at www.cyen.org.

Caribbean youth rally for climate change

By Andrea Downer, Journalist

Kingston, August 31, 2009, (Panos) – Thirty young environment advocates from 12 Caribbean islands met in the Dominican Republic recently to discuss climate change issues in the region and to gain insights into effective ways to get the public and their respective governments to engage with climate change in meaningful ways.

The three-day workshop, which was a joint initiative of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN)  and 350.org, was part of efforts to mobilize Caribbean youth in light of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen in December  where world leaders will meet to decide on a new global treaty on climate change.

Many of the participants were not native Spanish speakers but they spoke the same language on one thing: climate change. They all had stories to share about the impacts they were experiencing, and the work they were doing to take action in their home countries.

“I am from a depressed community; there was not much happening there for youths.  Marijuana smoking was the main social pastime for young people.  So meeting on a corner and smoking weed was the main form of social interaction,” Says Nintus Magre, a 31 year old environment advocate, teacher and performing artiste from St. Lucia explained. He is also the Caricom Youth Ambassador for St. Lucia.

According to Nintus, farming is the main subsistence in Desruisseaux, the rural community in St. Lucia where he lives and as a result, he sees preserving of the environment as crucial to the livelihood of the persons in his community. Recognizing the potential and effectiveness of youth, he sought to get them productively involved in environmental initiatives. He explained that he seeks to engage young people in his community in projects geared at environmental protection, advocacy; climate change and bio diversity, among other areas.

Nintus explained that through CYEN, he has been able to organize a number of events aimed at raising public awareness about the environment.

“These include special assemblies, a pageant, radio and television interviews annual environmental challenge/quiz for primary schools which is held in a different school district each year,” said Nintus, who is also the president of the southern division of CYEN, St Lucia.  “We participated in the Coastal Clean-up for two years, partnered with the St. Lucia National Trust as recent as this year to stage Earth Day activities in St Lucia. Also worthy of mention is the involvement of CYEN in the development of a plan for the sustainable use of the Point Sable National Park in Vieux Fort in the south of the island.”

His compelling story was part of a key component of the training; Public Narrative and Leadership.  The segment, which was facilitated by Carlos Rymer, a young Dominican environment advocate living in New York, was aimed at sharpening the young people’s leadership skills with the use of ‘stories’ or personal narratives.

“Public narrative is ‘why’ of organizing, the art of translating values into action through stories. Stories communicate our values through the language of the heart. It is what we feel – our hopes, our cares, our obligations – not simply what we know that can inspire us with the courage to act,” said Rymer to the  participants – some of whom were also from Colombia and the United States.

Like Nintus, most of the participants were part of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, CYEN, based in Barbados. CYEN, which was formed in 1992, has youth groups and individuals who aim to promote positive action among Caribbean young poeple on environment and sustainable development issues. Climate Change, which was the focus of the Climate Change Advocacy Workshop, is one of CYEN’s major foci.

 The three-day workshop, was sponsored by organisations such as the United Nations development Programme, UNDP (Barbados) and the Organisation of American States, OECS. It was held from August 9-11, 2009.  The workshop formed part of a larger event; the 4th biannual CYEN Youth Exchange.

CYEN, and many civil society organizations throughout the Caribbean are focusing on climate change this year for two critical reasons.  For one, world leaders will meet this December in Copenhagen to decide upon a new global treaty on climate change.  This meeting is a crucial time for civil society to make their voices heard, and to hold leaders accountable.

Secondly, scientific reports on climate change continue to worsen, and scientists have now concluded that we have already surpassed the limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is safe for civilization.  Scientists believe that 350 parts per million is the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere – but we are already at 390ppm – and if it stays above this level for too long, it will have dire consequences for vulnerable regions like the Caribbean that will be affected by large rises in sea level and increasingly intense hurricanes.

CYEN has partnered with international grassroots climate campaign 350.org whose mission is to spread the word about this important goal of 350ppm.  Through citizen action and mobilization they will unite with civil society organizations around the globe to hold politicians accountable to a strong and just treaty through a giant global day of climate change action on October 24th of this year.  One of the main outcomes of the recent workshop were plans to hold public events in each island country on this day, which will be a key date to influence politicians in the region and globally, to hold
them accountable to taking significant action on climate change this year.

From the workshop the youth representatives created the Santo Domingo Caribbean Youth Declaration on Climate Change and affirmed their support for the Lilliendaal Declaration on Climate Change. The declaration calls for governmental and private sector commitment and action to positively respond to the issue of climate change. It also asks government to encourage dialogue with youth in the Caribbean and to consider including youth on their respective national delegations to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change scheduled for December this year in Copenhagen

 In addition to participants learning how to influence  local, regional, and international climate change policy by developing highly visible strategies and activities they were also taught how to maximise use of the media. The media training was led by Panos Caribbean.

The young people also participated in a number of other environmental-related activities from August 12-14th which included:

– a trip to Pedernales, a community located on the border of Dominica Republic and Haiti
– visiting a Haitian community on the border with the Dominican Republic
– a trip to an environmental Dominican peace corps project in Paraiso; Brigadas Verdes
– a visit to a national park,
– doing a beach clean up, and
– planting trees during a visit to the botanical gardens.

(End/31/08/2009 Panos)