I have been in Paris for two days to walk around and test the atmosphere, riding the Metro, visiting markets, going to shopping malls, talking with people. The atmosphere is definitely tense. A French lady with Swedish mother tells us in almost fluent Swedish that the atmosphere in December is not anywhere close to what it use to be, people are sad, serious, low key. Everywhere there is tight security, guards with waists and armbands at all entrances to all shops and all congregation halls.
And armed police and soldiers on trains and walking the streets and patrolling the airport. Still I feel relatively safe, I know very well that terrorist actions can happen everywhere and nowhere, and we are conscious that we do not want to give in to fear, we do not want the terrorists to set the agenda and to change the way we live our lives. And Paris and COP 21 is a very, very important crossroad for us all.
That is why we have run a solid and very serious risk assessment and shared that with all participants before they decided to come to Paris. Almost all have decided to come to Paris and to hold Camp Climate as it was planned. Or almost as it was planned. Because the public demonstrations and marches have been cancelled all over. Symbolically the ten thousand pairs of shoes are lined up in the street to symbolise the many people who would have marched for change.
The Vice Mayor is there to greet us and wish us welcome, the President and staff of French YMCA are all there to welcome us, The European Secretary is there, Juan, and the Youth Envoy of the Secretary General of United Nations, Ahmad Alhendawi, is there to pay tribute to the World YMCA and the strong youth presence at COP 21.
The United Nations Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi
The position statement on key environmental issues of the World YMCA opens the event through a new video. Then I have the floor to welcome everybody and to thank our French YMCA friends for their splendid work to assist us in making Camp Climate happen.
I tell them that the World YMCA is fully committed to the environmental issues and that we will continue to host events like Camp Climate, and hope for even bigger numbers next year when the COP 22 is held in Morocco. We will be there to help give young people a strong voice.
I refer to the One Million Voices – the report is just out, and I want to share the presentation video with them with the key contents of the voices of young people. Oscar from Peru is the representative of the young voices, as well as
Marc, the YMCA President of France gives us a warm welcome and then it is Ahmad’s turn, the UN Youth Envoy. He underlines how important it is that YMCA is bringing the young voices in big numbers so that we can be heard and have real influence.
Afterwards I give him a copy of the OMV report and he is very interested to share the content of the research in his vast network. He also tells me that the United Nations is going to establish a network of Youth Initiatives and organisations to help deliver on the Sustainability goals recently decided by the UN General Assembly, and he wants the YMCA to be a corner stone in this network. I smile and confirm our willingness to shoulder responsibilities together with UN and all the other youth organisations.
Towards the end of the kick off event two of the young coordinators of the World YMCA Resource Group for Environment (GRE) talk to us about the work of the Resource Group from Lima last year to Paris this year and further on to Morocco next year.
The group is growing fast and is leading the World YMCA advocacy agenda for the time being. Well done, guys!
Green and white scarfs are being waved all over the hall with AMBITIOUS in big letters, the colours make us look like soccer hooligans for an Irish club. But we are behind the Camp Climate 100%, powered by the YMCA.
Mathilde and Romulo
Through the 2 weeks the Camp Climate will last nearly 400 young leaders from inside and outside of the YMCA will be there for a few days up to 2 weeks. 33 partner organisations are represented! Some of the participants have accreditation to join the COP 21 meeting and be inside, the rest of us are doing advocacy and awareness raising outside of the meeting, equally important.
As the kick off event comes to an end, I am being greeted by three young ladies from Iran, they have joined Camp Climate and want to express their interest and motivation to continue to work together with the World YMCA after Camp Climate.I welcome this initiative warmly and we exchange cards.
Not only cross cultural collaboration, but also inter faith collaboration. This is the way forward. This is the way towards change. This is the way towards understanding and peace. This is the way we will walk. Always forward and upwards.