n 19 July 2004, more than 450 youth ambassadors from countries as varied as Colombia, Ireland, Lebanon and Ghana streamed into the US town of New London, Connecticut, for the 2004 TUNZA International Children's Conference on the Environment. At the opening ceremony - after the delegates had been greeted with vibrant dances and music - the famous primate researcher Jane Goodall told her audience: 'Not only can you change the world - you are changing the world.'
The ambassadors - all between the ages of 10 and 13 - represented 50 nations from six continents. The conference gave them many opportunities to discuss what they could do to protect their planet and preserve natural resources for future generations. They agreed that one of the most important things they could do was talk to their friends and family. 'I want everyone to know that it's important that they think about the environment,' said Ritsuya Kishida, a 13-year-old boy from Tokyo, Japan, who led a project to clear away litter in his home town.
In between field trips, workshops and artistic performances by hip-hop singers and hoop dancers, the delegates buckled down to serious work, discussing current environmental issues and proposing viable solutions. Based on their findings, they passed a series of commitments and challenges aimed at taking better care of the earth and its resources, including respect and fair treatment for indigenous peoples everywhere.
Michael Van Leesten, chairman of the International Coalition for Children and the Environment, said the conference set a good example for adults. 'It's actual proof that what's going on in the world now is curable if we can develop a whole new group of leaders to take over the world,' he added. 'It's as simple as that.'
By the conference's end, the delegates were proud of what they had accomplished together. Thirteen-year-old Lauren Kirk from Central Queensland, Australia, summed up: 'It is the little things that count. Think locally - act globally. It is my belief that the children of the world can unite, make a difference and help lighten our environmental footprint.'
The 2004 Commitments and Challenges
|Our common goal During the conference, everyone had a chance to share their culture. We may not all speak the same language, but we care about similar things. Humankind's treatment of the environment affects us all, no matter where we are from. We all have a stake in what happens to the earth, since, after all, it is our shared home. We will have to start working together to solve major problems like pollution and to conserve precious resources if we are to protect the natural world for ourselves and our future children.
Alex Lin and Christine Kong, two of the delegates, summed up: 'The world is at peace here, all religions working together, laughing together, having fun together. All with a common goal: to help the environment and the rest of the world. Now, we delegates are doing something that many adults in the world cannot do: working together in peace. If the entire world was like this, there would have to be no more wars.'
|Conference pictures: UNEP|
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Tunza International Children's Conference on the Environment Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation UNEP Connecticut College PDF Version
|Tread lightly on the planet||Living with the Nahua||Medicines from the wild||Protect the Arctic||Chemical reactions||Ask Tunza|
|Environmental heroes||Listening to nature||Living wealth||Indigenous peoples?||Running free||Let's pay fair!|
|World in our hands||'Kill me, not the tree'||Wise trees||Taking the long view||Creation stories||South Seas Solutions|
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