On Friday, September 20, Brandywine’s honors Civic and Community Engagement 211 class hopped on a bus and journeyed to the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the International Day of Peace Student Observance, which focused on the theme of sustainable development in the face of the climate crisis under the banner “Climate Action for Peace.”
The program contained opening remarks by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Flemming, followed by a statement from UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Guterres encouraged young people to continue their activism despite government inaction.
“[E]ven if governments are still lacking political will, even if we are still unable to make full peace with nature, there is a huge hope in what the youth is doing all over the world. And the youth is clearly telling my generation that we need to change course and that we need to do it now.”
Acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed for the attendees and later participated in a panel discussion along with indigenous environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth director of conservation organization Earth Guardians.
Youth activists Kehkashan Basu, founder of the Green Hope Foundation, and Kasha Slavner, creator of visual storytelling project Global SunRisers, called for climate action.
Zahir Tanin, Head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, spoke to attendees via video link, followed by an online presentation by a youth group in Kosovo and a Q&A session framed around the 3Peas project, a toolkit designed to provide guidance in the application of permaculture as a path to peace and youth empowerment in the Balkan region.
The United Nations ActNow campaign played a role in the proceedings as well. The ActNow campaign is a coordinated push to individual action on the climate crisis. It aims to raise awareness and spur government action to implement the changes suggested by the Paris Agreement.
A large presentation of peace projects by high school and college students rounded out the day, including GirlsPlayGlobal, Citizens Climate Lobby, WE, the World, DGC Youth Representatives Programme, and other undergrad and graduate students projects from Princeton, John Hopkins, and Appalachian State University, the lattermost associated with Penn State University’s Summer Drawdown activities to create a sustainable campus environment.
“Participation in this event at the UN headquarters provided a great opportunity for our honors students to connect what they learn in the classroom with programs that have a real impact on our world. It is great to see our honors students and honors professors working together, and getting involved on campus, in the community, and beyond,” said Hans Schmidt, campus coordinator of the Cooper and Schreyer honors programs.
The event closed with the customary minute of silence and ringing of the peace bell.