Reflections of a First-Time Attendee to the Fourth edition of UNEA

Isaiah 24: 4-6

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”

“We only have one Earth! Now is the opportune time to take action and take care of it.” In the wake of climate change and from the onset of the Fourth session of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA4), these words have been echoed on countless times. But until when will we continue to say this. National statements were presented, negotiations deliberated on, and 23 resolutions adopted for national uptake and now it rests upon our relative ministries to bring life to them. We continue to feel the calamities of climate change! Let’s move beyond the conversation and put into action? #SolveDifferent

From early morning Major Groups’ briefings to late evening deliberations, and from attending various side events to listening attentively to country-specific national statements! Major groups are made up of 9 sectors of society, identified as having a significant stake in working towards sustainable development. One would wonder, why take time to attend and attentively listen to most deliberations made during the UNEA4! Well, it’s a great platform to influence the text being negotiated on by states; build and cultivate alliances for future work and to learn how intergovernmental negotiations work amongst others! Not only shaping my narrative, it helped to listen and learn the ropes, forge alliances with like-minded organizations and friendships.

Early morning Major Groups’ Briefing at the #UNEA4 Green Tent

The first week was characterized by the Major Group (7-8 March); and The UN Science-Policy Business Forum on the environment (8-10 March) which was now in its second year running, designed to strengthen the interface between science, policy, business and society. All recommendations made would inform the assembly.

Entering the second week of the Environmental Assembly, a moment of darkness overshadowed and dampened hopes in light of the unfortunate crash that claimed 157 lives, including some intending to attend the UNEA4. A heartbreaking feeling it was, which saw every morning dedicated to reflect on their lives and mourn in our hearts of this tragic loss. May their lovely souls rest in eternal peace!

It was encouraging to see faith-based communities joining hands in light to help combat the adverse implications of climate change for our common home. Under the #Faith4Earth initiative, it brought under one roof various religious groups with one voice. Their role cannot be downplayed since they are more in touch with local communities, and their influence in tapping into the human heart. One thought that struck a nerve, ‘Religion promotes a culture of respect for the sacredness of life, which is radically undermined by environmental degradation.’ With its large constituency and often a “captive audience”, it provides a firm learning and sharing foundation, with key texts on being stewards of the earth. In addition, youth-oriented faith movements have been playing an instrumental role encouraging more youth to join in driving for environmental sustainability.

Interfaith prayers at the #Faith4Earth Tent during #UNEA4 for the departed souls of #ET302 passengers (Photo Credits: #Faith for Earth Initiative)

One lively youth I brushed shoulders with shared a powerful thought on the strategic role youth play in fighting for our space in the environmental scene, which deserves to be shared:

Our future is not promised, unless we take action

We want to be listened to and make the input

Where are our voices

We want to wake up and do something in tandem to environmental action,

There is a gap in terms of information and lack of recognition,

We sacrifice a lot to make it and to see the bigger picture, but we give up along the way

We need to create more space of opportunities for youth

We are the biggest untapped and resourceful resource

As empowerment is a key driver, meaningful participation is

Let’s secure our dreams as young people!

Credit: Peter Frederick Moll

Written by:

Kudzanai Chimhanda

Core Team Member, CYNESA Zimbabwe

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