YMCA and the UN Armenia joined efforts for Youth Climate Summit Global campaign

Yerevan, 21 September 2019 - On the occasion of the International Day of Peace marked on 21 September every year, the UN assumed a global campaign: the first-ever Youth Climate Summit under the theme: “Climate Action for Peace”, calling the world to speak up for the protection of our planet. The Summit was marked by the dialogue between the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. 

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), a worldwide organisation focused on youth mobilisation and development, invited young people from the YMCA around the world to gather in their countries and watch the Youth Climate Summit in the frame of an event they could organise in the frame of the Summit the overall objective of which was to engage the youth in a meaningful dialogue under the motto: “DO something” with brainstorming on new youth initiatives and innovative solutions to combat climate change and protect the environment in their own countries and communities.

The YMCA and the UN in Armenia joined this global effort with commitment and enthusiasm: in the morning of 21 September (by a pleasant coincidence, on a national holiday: the Independence Day in Armenia), the YMCA in Armenia organised an event at the Office of the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE) in Yerevan, by inviting the Executive Secretary of YMCA Europe, Mr. Vardan Hambardzumyan, and the Climate Change Program Coordinator of UNDP Armenia, Ms. Diana Harutyunyan, as core guests, and a group of YMCA leaders and counsellors, ICARE students.

In support to the initiative, UNHCR in Armenia took the initiative of liaising its operational partner, YMCA Armenia, with the UNDP, and a group of refugee and local young people, members of the Youth Coalition and the volunteers of ‘Join-the-Community’ project operating under UNHCR and KASA Foundation. The event served very and useful for the youth in view of their project on ecological care: “Plant a Tree with a Refugee” which they had jointly assumed in the communities hosting refugees.

In her welcoming remarks, Ms. Diana Harutyunyan, said: “The role of Youth in Armenia as part of the global youth movement for tackling Climate Change in many countries is essential.  Armenia has taken certain commitments under Paris Agreement, which obviously need efforts of the entire society, including young professionals and the progressive youth who can be the change-makers and the strong advocates for policy improvement and its implementation. They can also set good example to others and become multipliers in promoting the protection of the environment in their communities”.

Thanking the organisers for initiating the event and acknowledging the importance of ICARE as an agricultural development institution, Ms. Harutyunyan expressed: “It is important to mention that Armenia is facing around a 1,3 degree Celsius increase of average temperature. This means that we have to timely assess and understand how to define our future agricultural police and adapt to future challenges”.

Ms. Naira Avetyan, a lecturer at the National Armenian Agrarian University, provided a presentation about the importance of promoting sustainable agricultural practices in Armenia as that could prevent negative impact on ecosystems. “We should care for ecology by first of all minimising the damage we cause to the nature”, she said. Talking about the organic agriculture as a measure of Climate Change mitigation, Ms. Avetyan explained the principles of organic farming: the ecology, health, care and briefed the audience on the situation, the achievements and challenges in the development of successful organic agriculture in Armenia. Highlighting its benefits and the long-term positive impact on the humanity and Planet, she encouraged the participants to learn more and engage in organic agricultural activities. Ms. Avetyan thereby offered relevant literature, including guide-books and manuals on organic agriculture for students and beginners.

The programme of the three-hour event prepared by the YMCA Armenia and a group of ICARE students was important and useful. The participants benefitted from the awareness-raising sessions with presentations on updated figures and information on the current state of the global environment, including the situation in Armenia; talked about the causes and consequences of Climate Change, shared their know-how and experience, as well as described some pilot projects they had accomplished for promotion of the SDGs (e.g. agriculture and clean energy, climate action and zero hunger), as well as awareness-raising and community mobilisation activities aimed to reduce energy and water usage, and consumption of goods, in general, as well as recycling and waste material utilisation and promotion of organic agriculture. The group also shared their experience in some innovative community projects aimed to mitigate climate change and protect the nature, e.g. ‘Say no to plastic’, ‘Give a second life to plastic bottles’, and other projects, followed by feedback from the participants and Q&A.

Talking about the motto of this year’s International Day of Peace, Mr. Vardan Hambardzumyan, The Executuve Secretary of YMCA Europe, said in his welcoming remarks: “Today is the International Peace Day, and the World YMCA has launched this Climate Action under the motto “for peace”. Where is the connection? Well, I believe that living in harmony with the Creation - Mother Nature - is key to inner peace. We cannot preach peace without feeling it inside us, or “Peace comes from within, do not seek it without”. I wish Climate Action and Peace Work to walk a talk hand in hand - not only today, but always”.

The event which went in a genuine and friendly atmosphere offered a platform for constructive discussion, and experience exchange. It was rich in inter-active games, team-building and energisers. The event was very important as a first YMCA-UN joint effort in the frame of the Global Youth Climate Summit which paved the way for future collaboration between the YMCA and the UN, including follow-up events and community-based activities by the refugee and local youth inspired for environmental activities in their communities.

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