The Healthy and Environment-friendly Youth (HEY) Campaign, championed by 40 young people from 23 countries, was officially launched this morning.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland, speaking at the virtual launch, shared how proud he was of the initiative.
“I am indeed impressed with your efforts to bring global attention to the critical issues of climate change and healthy living. I am equally impressed with the advocacy and outreach being displayed to build bridges between young people regionally and extra-regionally, recognising that youth empowerment and participation is a global development agenda,” Minister Sutherland said.
He noted that the Ministry has been “quite strident” in its commitment to creating a generation of young people, who are committed to healthy lifestyles at the personal level, while recognising that the treatment of the environment has a significant impact on the overall quality of life of the country, and of the world.
Minister Sutherland stressed that countries around the world need to lower their carbon emissions to reduce the impacts of climate change, and suggested that youth have a critical role to play in building a climate resilient future.
“I would further posit that this intent cannot be fully achieved unless we start to educate and involve our young people. In this regard, a mission critical for the Government of Barbados is to ensure that young people are provided with information and knowledge that allows them to be part of the process to move Barbados towards a green economy.
“In this way, the country would be allowed to better adapt to the impacts of climate change; manage natural capital; protect fragile ecosystems; create green jobs and achieve sustainable development,” he said.
The HEY Campaign was started by The Ashley Lashley Foundation in April 2020, in partnership with UNICEF Eastern Area Office.
Founder of the campaign, Ashley Lashley, in her address, stated: “Our leaders are not doing enough to stop climate change. We need bolder climate action and climate justice. As youth, we are the key drivers in this fight against climate change. We want to make a difference; we want to be the agents of change; climate change continues to affect each and every one of us. We want real change.”
Miss Lashley stressed that now is not the time for talk, but for serious action to be taken. She pointed out that youth in the HEY Campaign “are not prepared to sit back and allow these issues to be placed on the back burner of governments’ list of priorities”.
“As youth, we are prepared to take pro-active measures to avert a global environmental and health catastrophe,’’ she stated.
A global HEY Parliament has been formed under the campaign, which holds sessions one Sunday in every month. Its aim is to formulate recommendations and exchange ideas on all issues and matters relating to climate change and health.
At the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), in November in Glasglow, a pre-recommendation report from the HEY Parliament on climate change and health will be presented.
Also speaking at the launch were UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Aloys Kamuragiye; Special Advisor to UN’s Secretary General on Climate Action and the Assistant Secretary General for Climate Action Team, Selwyn Hart, and members of the HEY Campaign, including HEY Special Envoy, 21-year-old Barbadian Olympic swimmer Alex Sobers, who encouraged youth to join the campaign, and to play their part in reducing the impacts of climate change.