United Youth

October 18, 2019
OPENING REMARKS Young climate activists Greta Thunberg and Bruno Rodriguez (in orange chair) address U.N. secretary-general António Guterres.
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UNITED NATIONS, New York—It’s Saturday, September 21, at 10 a.m. Five people are seated at the center of the Trusteeship Council Chamber. Four of them are youth climate activists. The fifth is United Nations (U.N.) secretary-general António Guterres. Typically, he’d be the one to welcome a room full of people to the U.N. But today, he isn’t here to talk. He’s here to listen.

Greta Thunberg, 16, from Sweden, speaks first. Many look up to her as the leader of the youth climate movement. To Greta’s left sits Bruno Rodriguez, 16, from Argentina. He speaks next. “Our world leaders have the obligation to make radical change,” Bruno says. “Let’s stop demanding [they] listen to science and start demanding they act on science.”

This call echoed throughout the first-ever United Nations Youth Climate Summit. About a thousand people attended. Many of them had marched in the Global Climate Strike, the day before. At both events, their demand was the same: for companies and governments to take urgent action against climate change.

ON LOCATION The Youth Climate Summit was held at the United Nations, on September 21.

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International Group

The U.N. is an international organization. Every September, representatives from its 193 nations come together for a weeklong U.N. General Assembly to discuss world issues. The 2019 meeting focused on climate.

The Youth Climate Summit was held before the General Assembly. Young activists shared their ideas. One session focused on STEM solutions, such as an app that helps people make ethical shopping choices. Another session featured Olympic athletes.

GLOBAL VIEW Nina Py Brozovich, 15, from Bolivia, talks with TFK’s Allison Singer. “You can see there are great ideas all over the world,” she says about the summit.

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Much of the excitement happened beyond the summit’s formal schedule. In hallways, activists who had known each other only through social media met for the first time. Outside, attendees interviewed each other for podcasts and videos. “It’s just been so inspiring, all the people coming together,” said Laura Lock, 17, from England.

BANNER DAY Activists at the U.N. Youth Climate Summit use stencils and blue paint to make banners. This process is called silk-screening.

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Hope Ahead

Jayathma Wickramanayake, U.N. envoy on youth, says the summit was held to amplify the voices of young activists. “We wanted to give the opportunity to young people to speak truth to power,” she told TIME for Kids.

Isabel Pronto Breslin, 15, attended the summit. She’s from Rhinebeck, New York. Isabel says that hearing from other young activists gives her hope. “More and more people are seeing how much of a problem we face,” she told TFK. “More and more people are committed to fighting it.”

Making Waves

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Zoë Trisha Prinsloo, 17, is from South Africa. There, she cleaned up plastic waste on beaches. Now, she’s started a business selling eco-friendly products. The business is called Save a Fishie! “I have an online store, and I’m in one little gift shop back home,” says Zoë. Her goal? “To go worldwide.”

Forty-two activists under the age of 18 were picked to attend the U.N. Youth Climate Summit, and Zoë was one of them. Read about nine others in “Youth in Action.”