Two students will be flying the flag for Cambodia to share their experiences of disasters at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva, Switzerland, May 19-23. Here, 17-year-old Hengmeang and 18-year-old Sophoeurn blog about their hopes for the summit.
The Future We Want by Sophoeurn
My name is Sophoeurn. I live in Srei Snom district, Siem Reap province, Cambodia. I am a girl, 18 years old. I have three brothers and four sisters. I am studying in grade 11 at 28 Makara High School. My village experiences floods, drought and storms. I am a leader of the children council’s at my school.
I am so glad to have the opportunity to attend the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in Geneva on 19-24 May. At the GPDRR, I hope I will have a chance to share and learn from other children about implementing disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities in schools and communities. I especially want to see children’s voices heard and accepted by participants.
From my point of view, the participation of children and young people in DRR is very important as children can be leaders or decision-makers to contribute to development in their own communities now and in the future. In addition, when children and young people know how to reduce disaster risks, they can better protect themselves from different kinds of risks and they can also help with DRR activities that can make communities and schools safe.
To give you an example, I lead the children’s council at my school and together we worked with the local commune council to put DRR into the commune investment plan. I strongly suggest to the government and NGOs to listen to children’s voices because only children can understand their own problems and needs.
The future that I want is to live in a community where government leaders know and support DRR and allow more children and young people like me to participate in identifying risks, planning for disasters, implementation and reviewing what difference it all makes.
The Future We Want by Hengmeang
My name is Hengmeang. I live in Kampong Cham province in Cambodia. I am a boy, 17 years old. I have two sisters and three brothers. I study in grade 12 at Sreng Kim High School. I am a leader of the Child Advocacy Network (CAN) in Sreo Ngeou commune and a member of the Young Council Cambodia (YCC).
I am very happy that I was selected to participate in the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in Geneva. My expectations for the global platform are: first to get new experiences from other children around the world working on DRR; and second to learn new solutions to reduce disasters affecting children. I plan to share with other children my knowledge and experience on disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Cambodia at the global platform. If I have the chance, I want to share my experiences of promoting children’s rights in Cambodia, which I usually do by training other children to help them understand their rights.
I believe children’s participation is very important because only children can tell adults about their suffering. Many children are very vulnerable and they can lose their lives when disasters happen in their community. I, along with other children, want to live in a place where the community and schools are safe from any kind of disasters.
Please involve children in disaster risk reduction activities.
Like everyone else in the climate change community, I love a challenge. So when last week’s global adaptation conference (CBA7) in Bangladesh challenged us to ensure that everyone, including the most vulnerable, are supported to adapt to climate change it got me thinking…
When it comes to climate change, Bangladesh is a paradox. On the one hand the low lying country is acutely vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate: rising sea levels are adding to the threats from stronger cyclones and more frequent floods. On the other hand Bangladesh is highly adaptive: throughout history, its people have adapted their livelihoods to changing conditions. Today, the government of Bangladesh is committed to leading and financing climate change adaptation – which is essential as the impacts of climate change overwhelm the capacities of its historically resilient people.
All this has meant that Bangladesh has become a global ‘hot spot’ for work on climate change adaptation. This was evident last week at the 7thannual Community Based Adaptation Conference (CBA7) , an international gathering of over 300 adaptation practitioners, policy makers, researchers and donors, which I attended along with colleagues from the Asia Regional Office and Plan Bangladesh.
The focus of the conference was mainstreaming adaptation: conference delegates wrestled with questions of how governments can make adaptation an integral part of development; to make sure that everyone is supported to adapt to climate change, not just a few. A theme that came up repeatedly was human rights: it was stressed that climate change adaptation must start with the question of how to protect and promote rights in a context of climate change. Rights, specifically children’s’ rights, are also at the heart of Plan’s approach to climate change adaptation. Another related theme was climate justice. Mary Robinson, addressing the conference, argued that we need to focus on the fairness and justice dimensions of climate change to build political will. She also stressed the importance of intergenerational justice, which is a key concern for Plan: children and future generations, who have not contributed to the problem of climate change, will bear the worsening future impacts. Those impacts, given the current state of the global climate negotiations and the delayed action on greenhouse gas mitigation are looking alarmingly inevitable.
Plan’s conference session, which we organised alongside Save the Children, picked up on these themes and focused on mainstreaming inclusive approaches to climate change adaptation. We wanted to engage delegates in a discussion about how we can make sure those often marginalised in climate change adaptation are able to benefit. While Plan focused on the importance of involving children in adaptation, we were joined by organisations working with indigenous people and women, including The Nature Conservancy and UN Women.
Participants in our session stressed the importance of not treating marginalised groups as victims (which is very common when people talk about children, women and indigenous peoples), but instead focusing on their strengths and capacities to achieve change – this is central to Plan’s approach to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction: we firmly believe that children should not be seen as passive victims, but instead can be active agents of change within their families and communities The discussion also stressed the need to recognise and address the underlying causes of vulnerability. It is not a coincidence that those affected most by the impacts of climate change and disasters are the poorest, often women, the youngest and the oldest in poor countries. These ‘groups’ face the greatest barriers to enjoying their rights, which makes them more vulnerable. We need to recognise and address these barriers, such as gender inequality and inequitable access to resources, if we are to have a real impact.
CBA7 was a fantastic opportunity for Plan to learn from the experiences of others working on climate change adaptation across the world, and to share our own lessons. It also showed me that we need to do more. The impacts of climate change, along with other risks, are undermining the development of the communities we work with and threatening progress on children’s rights. This means that we need to work harder to consider climate risks in our programming work; help to build the adaptive capacity of children and their communities; and advocate effectively to ensure that governments consider children’s rights in their climate change plans.
To make our position and approach to working on climate change clear, both to colleagues within Plan and to our partners, donors and sponsors, next week we will be launching Plan’s Position on Climate Change. Look out for this on Planet and Yammer in the next few days.
Also check out this video interview with Caroline Borchard, DRR and CCA Programme Manager in ARO
Climate Change Policy Officer