Young UNICEF campaigners have urged Secretary of State for Environment Caroline Spelman to speak up for children at this month’s Rio Earth Summit.
The young people presented a petition to Spelman at a 'Question Time' event at the Science Museum in London hosted by TV journalist and UNICEF supporter Simon Reeve.
The event, which brought together environment and sustainability experts, enabled over 30 young people to set out the key issues they want addressed by world leaders at the Rio Summit.
They pointed out that unlike many of the political decision makers attending Rio+20, they would still be around for Rio+40, Rio+60 and Rio+80 and they challenged the Minister to help instill a long-term vision among policy makers for a sustainable future for the planet.
"We are part of nature but we are not apart from nature", Rachel Hall a 21 year-old student at Sheffield University told Spelman.
"Children have had no hand in the current global challenges caused by humanity but bare the daily brunt of their consequences. Therefore prioritising children at the Rio Earth Summit is not only morally just but also critical for improving the lives of children today and in the future."
Caroline Spelman responded by telling the young people:
"Everything you’ve told me I will take with me on the plane to Rio. We have got to leave the planet in a better way than we inherited it."
Speak up for children by signing our petition
The event, organised by the Science Museum in partnership with UNICEF UK, Defra, British Youth Council and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, was opened with a specially pre-recorded message from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in which he promised the young people in the room to take their messages to Rio.
"There is no better way to inject a sense of urgency than to hear from the people that will be most affected; the people who will hold us to account if we fail; the people who will run the businesses, communities and governments of the future. You are those people."
The young people at the event were joined by others from around the world, including those who had experienced the devastating affect of climate change themselves. Linking live via Skype from Nairobi, 27-year-old Miriam Otieno described her work to promote environmental sustainability. "There have been serious shortages of water here in Kenya. In recent years the rains have failed and I have been working with my community on water harvesting and water storage projects."
At the end of the event, UNICEF supporter Simon Reeve added his signature to our online Speak Up petition.
"I’ve seen some of the great challenges and issues facing the planet, including climate change, the destruction of our oceans, pollution and over-fishing", said Reeve.
"We need leaders who can take tough decisions and can stop us from squandering the resources of Planet Earth, leaving nothing for our children and grandchildren. We have to think more long-term and protect our planet for future generations. And so of course we have to get youngsters and children involved, and make them central to the debates and discussions that take place in Rio."
He then joined our On Campus student supporters in handing in a hard copy of the the petition to Caroline Spelman.