Tokelau to take leadership role at South-South youth climate change conference

19 August 2015
Lealaiauloto Aigaletaulealea F. Tauafiafi

Tokelau is set to play a central role in the South-South sub-regional youth climate change conference in Apia, Samoa starting Monday next week.
Its leader, Ulu-o-Tokelau, Aliki Faipule Siopili Perez is expected to deliver the keynote address; while a video produced by Tokelau youth documenting an innovative method for growing food in climate change vulnerable communities will be one of the showcased solutions.
The Apia youth conference is part of the broader ‘Climate South Initiative’ where the global South takes on a different kind of debate on climate - a debate led by the South for the benefit of the world. It aims to give voice to those not typically heard at climate change conferences, to engage youth in the process, and to encourage collaboration on solutions, rather than negotiation.
Tokelau’s youth coordinator, Mrs Lise Suveinakama believes the conference is a medium for the voice of Tokelau’s young people to be heard at a deeper level as their participation is linked to the goals/objectives of Tokelau’s National Youth Policy. The conference also provides youth representatives a chance to gain wider awareness of global issues that will better prepare them if they take on leadership roles in the future.
“These opportunities will build/enhance their knowledge, skills and confidence on global issues such as climate change and its negative impacts on small countries like Tokelau. It is an invaluable opportunity for our youth to mingle and share their stories/issues with other youth from the region and learn from one another especially with their common stories/issues.”
The conference is also significant as it kick-starts the first phase of the year long south-south youth sub-regional initiative on climate change, which will run to August 2016. It’s a year long window of opportunity for youth to share knowledge and cross-fertilize ideas between participating countries and communities.
Mrs Suveinakama believes the new youth initiative will benefit Tokelau’s youth immensely.
“Our youth participating in the Apia conference would certainly broaden their knowledge and understanding on the impacts of climate change,” she added.
“They will be able to see these impacts apply specifically to Tokelau and hopefully, they will be able to localise that to the role our young people can play particularly in mitigating those effects through climate change adaptation programmes and activities set-up to fight the negative impacts of climate change not just in Tokelau, but in other small island countries.”
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will be centrally involved with Tokelau’s preparations to the conference by workshopping, briefing and mentoring Tokelau’s three youth representatives to maximise the nation’s priority positions and interventions at the conference.
The preparatory work will be crucial as one of the key inputs by Tokelau to the conference will be a ‘Statement’ from Tokelau youth in support of the Polynesia Against Climate Threats (PACT) declaration made by Polynesian leaders, of which Tokelau was a signatory, in Tahiti last month.
The PACT has already been used internationally at the highest global level with Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele quoting some of the text when presenting to the UN Security Council last month. This was the first ever time that Pacific leaders had presented directly to the UN Security Council. The opportunity gained through New Zealand’s chairmanship of the Council.
In the climate change segment of his statement, PM Tuilaepa told the Council, “climate change and its adverse impacts are a threat to the territorial integrity, security and sovereignty and in some cases to the very existence of our islands because of the subversion of existing land and the regression of our maritime heritage.”
The PACT will also be tabled at the Pacific Islands Forum next month in Papua New Guinea; and in December, to the UN climate change summit in Paris, France.
For the South-South Apia conference, Tokelau’s youth are crafting their statement, with the help of UNDP and government officials, which links Tokelau’s National Youth Policy with action plans for youth and climate change.
The words in their statement will be translated into practical terms by demonstrating how to build “Keyhole Gardens”. A method very much suitable to conditions for small-scale food production in Tokelau. The demonstration will be assisted by Malcolm Hazelman, a known agriculturist and advocate for organic farming.
As a follow-up after the conference, UNDP will run a session with the youth representatives on proposal development taking in the ideas/plans/priorities they had identified during the conference.
It means by the time they go back to the villages of Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu, they will have with them the draft concept notes to validate with the other young people in the villages and to gain support from the taupulega (village councils).
The South-South youth initiative is a platform from which the voice of Pacific youth, like those from Tokelau, and their respective national and domestic governance structures are acknowledged. And through collective instruments like the PACT, are then heard in their authentic forms, at the highest levels.