Each year on the 12th of August, the world celebrates the United Nations International Youth Day.
The UN defines the worlds’ youth as those between the age group of 15 to 24 years, making up one-sixth of the human population.
Many of these young men and women live in developing countries and their numbers are expected to rise steeply.
The idea of an International Youth Day was mooted in 1991 by young people who were gathered in Vienna, Austria, for the first session of the UN’s World Youth Forum.
The forum recommended that an International Youth Day be declared, especially for fundraising and promotional purposes, to support the United Nations Youth Fund in partnership with global youth organizations.
In 1998 a resolution proclaiming August 12 International Youth Day was adopted during the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for youth.
That recommendation was later endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 1999, with International Youth Day being observed for the first time in 2000.
The day was declared to give the world an opportunity to recognize the potential of the youth, celebrate their achievements and plan for ways to better engage young people in successfully taking part in the development of their societies.
The day presents a unique opportunity for all stake-holders to come together and ensure that young people are included in decision making at all levels.
This years theme was ‘Youth and climate change: Time for action’ which was selected after the recognition of the fact that climate change is already devastating communities, deepening the effects of poverty and hunger.
Africa as usual suffers most and remains exposed to the devastating effects of climate change. This complicates further the situation for the youth who are the future generation and are likely to suffer more than anybody else from climatic set-backs.
The call this year is for young people to increasingly add their voices to the global call for action on climate change to also strategically engage the youth in areas of preparedness, risk reduction, adaptation and mitigation since they are more energetic and versatile.
In this case, preparedness and disaster risk reduction calls for the Rwandan youth to build individual and community capacities so that the likelihood of climate-induced disasters affecting the country are reduced and also take it upon themselves to educate other people on how to respond promptly, expeditiously and effectively towards climate change.
Rwandan youths have often engaged in income generating activities without considering the environment.
Their energy and agility driven by the biting poverty result in the youths descending on the environment like a swarm of locusts and wantonly destroy it, without any remorse.
What should be done there-fore by the youths is to come up with adaptation methods as they carry out their development projects.
Much as we cannot halt climate change, we have the capacity to direct its course and also come up with mitigating actions that minimize or cushions the adverse impacts of climate change through our daily interaction with the environment.
Therefore as we celebrate our youthfulness in 2008, we have several things we can do on our part to save the environment.
First of all, we can team up. All the youth in Rwanda can team up and form strategic youth teams in their communities.
As the adage goes ‘united we stand’; in the youth coming together lies a great opportunity to rally for support from key stake-holders like the Government, NGO’s, academic institutions, the private sector and elders.
The youth are known for not teaming up, something that has weakened youth associations and denied the youth a collective platform to voice their opinions and views, but not because there is nobody to listen to them.
Therefore if we all teamed up from the grassroots to the national level and took meaningful action on climate change, for sure there is a ready hand offering help somewhere.
Secondly, let’s organize. Like Pan Africanists say, lets organize and not agonise.
Its time for the youth to be organized and shed off the image of being a ‘bunch of disorganized young people’ but rather cultivate an image of responsibility and maturity by forging new partnerships and launching practical action which will arouse interest from the Governments, NGO’s and private sector to rally behind us and support us in implementing such plans.
For example we can conduct research on how activities in our local communities contribute to climate change while coming up with local projects that can promote sustainable development and environmental protection.
This way we can take control of our own destiny by securing the environment for out future benefit.
We the youth should learn how to walk the talk by taking action.
In this we can hold forums, public discussions and campaigns to sensitize and mobilize the young people especially on how we can act and address climate change issues.
This should be with a spirit of nationalism and selfless and if we can’t volunteer to do so, then we are doing a disservice to out country.
We should create awareness about climate change through the media, internet and other channels like dance and drama.
This is because it’s everybody’s concern to protect the environment and the perception that it’s the sole responsibility of the government should be removed. The environment needs us and we all need it.
Its time for the youth to stop acting irresponsibly towards the environment, especially at this time when the shocks attributed to climate change are being felt all over the world.
The stinging hunger, the high energy prices and the scotching droughts are all connected to climate change.
Its quite amazing how the youth are sitting back and not bothered at all about what we will eat tomorrow.
While we cannot force the passing of the Kyoto Protocol or shut down the industries responsible for high carbon emissions, in the environment.
We can play our part by planting two trees where one is cut, protecting the wetlands, mulching our gardens and the proper disposal of plastics. Sure this is easy. Is it not fellow youth?