Earlier this month (June 2020), UNICEF Youth Climate Ambassador from Zimbabwe Nkosilathi Nyathi (Nkosi) participated in a meeting of the Group of Friends of Children and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where he delivered these remarks. The Group of Friends of Children and the SDGs is a group of 63 UN Member States that regularly meet to make sure their government’s delivery of the SDGs include children’s rights and voices. Read his powerful speech here:
"My name is Nkosilathi Nyathi, a 17 year old Unicef Youth Climate Ambassador in Zimbabwe. You can call me Nkosi. I am a proud African, growing up near Victoria Falls. I am here on a mission, carrying a vision not only for my nation but my generation, because it concerns our future.
Growing up, I noticed something that affected my country’s poverty, me, my family, and my community. It was the environment – our natural world around us – our atmosphere – and our biosphere.
Climate Change is now our reality. We experience fires, droughts, and floods. It is causing these extreme weather events to be more frequent and more severe. We need to recognise that the environment and climate change form the foundation of all the SDGs.
If we fail to achieve the goals related to Clean Water and Sanitation, Climate Action, Life Below Water, and Life on Land, the world will fail to achieve all the other remaining goals. The eradication of poverty, zero hunger, peace and justice, education, good health, just to name a few. These are the goals that affect my life each and every day!
Protecting the environment is one of the most important requirements for social justice and economic development… and ensuring the rights of children all around the world.
Since I was ten I have been passionate about the environment. Some years back I noticed some veld fires in my community near Victoria Falls during extreme heat wave. From then i knew an environmental and climate bomb was ticking and there was need for me to take a role to start change in my community.
I pioneered the implementation of the first biogas plant in my community in Victoria Falls to reduce waste and produce sustainable energy. I have raised climate awareness in our local radio station , and I have recorded videos to raise awareness. However I have realised that our efforts as young people are in vain if we can’t take our fight to higher platforms and decision makers – platforms such as this one.
So I also advocate for world leaders to include children and young people and their ideas and input in your policy and decision making. As youths we are encouraging the renewal of the Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs – as per the Paris Agreement. The renewal of these NDCs will create a hopeful and sustainable future for generations and generations to come.
In fact, I made a plea at COP25 (the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference) to involve us, children and young people, in these climate plans and reports. I am happy and proud that my government involved young people in the production of the country’s Climate Policy Document. Children and youth want and need to be a part of sustainable development decisions. We are here, we are smart, we are the solutions.
I would like to commend UNICEF on ensuring high child participation in big meetings such as these. It is very important to note that no decision made without us, is for us. We also can’t continue our fight for climate action without recognising the current COVID-19 pandemic.
It is a heavy blow especially to the vulnerable communities and is putting at risk marginalised communities, particularly children sleeping without food.
While the virus is a major threat there is a need to improve social safety nets and give support to community projects which can help the vulnerable communities from sliding back to extreme poverty during this crisis. I also encourage policy and decision makers to invest in the health of the citizens and in our education system to value inclusivity paying particular attention to the age, gender, race and the disability.
When we can ALL be healthy, when we can ALL learn, we can all participate in this future vision for ALL. I above all emphasize that this vision for the future requires partnership and climate action. Please, we cannot forget about goals 13 and 17 to work together for a better planet and sustainable solutions.
With this Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you. The ball is in your court. However, Actions speak louder than words. I believe what we are going to discuss today will soon become actions.