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In Landmark UN Complaint, 16 Children Accuse Nations of Failing to Protect Them from Climate Change

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Image Credit: UNICEF

Youth climate activists from around the world also attended the U.N. Climate Action Summit Monday, where they spoke at UNICEF about a landmark new climate complaint they filed with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Hailing from countries including Argentina, Brazil, Germany, the Marshall Islands and Tunisia, the young representatives spoke about why they feel compelled to act on the climate crisis. Among the youth climate activists were Alexandria Villaseñor of New York and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg and 15 other youth climate activists from around the world filed a complaint Monday with the United Nations, accusing five major countries of violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child by failing to protect children from the devastating impacts of the climate crisis. Greta and the other petitioners spoke at the UNICEF headquarters.

ALEXANDRIA VILLASEÑOR: My name is Alexandria Villaseñor. I’m 14 years old. I’m from New York. And I am here because 30 years ago the world signed a contract between generations that the present world would leave a world worth inheriting to the future. And today I want to tell the world, you are defaulting on that contract, and we’re here to collect.

CARL SMITH: [speaking Yup’ik] Hi. My name is Carl Smith. I’m from — I’m Yup’ik from Akiak, Alaska. And I’m 17 years old. I am here because climate change is affecting the way I live. It has taken away my home, the land and the animals.

RANTON ANJAIN: [speaking Marshallese] My name is Ranton Anjain. I’m 17 years old, and I’m from the Marshall Islands. And I’m here because climate change is destroying my islands through sea level rise and storms.

CHIARA SACCHI: [speaking Spanish] Hi. Good morning. My name is Chiara Sacchi. I am 17 years old, and I am from Argentina. I am here today because I have things to say, and I am here today in behalf of my people. Argentina is suffering from a climate crisis. And I think we need to decide on which side of the wick are we. And we need to do it now.

DAVID ACKLEY III: [speaking Marshallese] Hello. My name is David Ackley. I am 16 years old, from Marshall Islands. I am here today because my islands are drowning, and I am here to stop it.

CATARINA LORENZO: [speaking Portuguese] Hello. My name is Catarina Lorenzo. I’m 12 years old, and I’m from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. I’m here to demand all the world leaders to listen to us and to help us stop climate change together. In Salvador, Brazil, they, the government, throw and dump sewage on the river, which goes to the ocean, in which we cannot go swim or surf because we will get sick. I’m saying this because this is the right thing to say and this is the truth. In this is our life that is being harmed in our future.

CARLOS MANUEL: [speaking Palauan] My name is Carlos Hans Manuel. I’m 17, and I’m from Palau. I am here because I want my voice to be heard. I want bigger countries to know that our small island nations are the most vulnerable countries to be affected by climate change. Our homes are slowly being swallowed up by the ocean. The places where memories are made, the places where trust and respect are gained, the places where we used to have fun and enjoy — it’s really sad to say, but those places, they’re slowly disappearing. I am standing in front of you because I care about my generation. I care about my future generation. I want a better life for us, a better future. And the most important thing, I want a better planet for us to live in. Thank you.

RAINA IVANOVA: [speaking German] Good morning, everyone. My name is Raina Ivanova, and I’m 15 years old. I’m from Hamburg, Germany. And I’m here today because the climate change is not just affecting all of us, it’s affecting every single person in this room and every single human being on our planet. And I want you to take your responsibility and make decisions today you can still be proud of in 11 years. Thank you.

LITOKNE KABUA: [speaking Marshallese] My name’s Litokne Kabua, and I am from the Marshall Islands. I am here because I am going to speak on behalf of my people, because we are on the frontline of climate crisis. And I am here to stop that.

RIDHIMA PANDEY: [speaking Hindi] Hello, everyone. My name is Ridhima Pandey. I am 11 years old, and I am from India. I am here because I want all the global leaders to do something to stop climate change, because if it’s not going to be stopped, it’s going to harm our future. So, if we want to stop global warming, we have to do something now.

RASLENE JOUBALI: Hello, everyone. First of all, I’d like to introduce this little Swede girl. This is Ellen-Anne from the community of Sweden. She is 8 years old, and she is here today because she loves reindeer and she wants to take care of it when she gets old. And the problem is that reindeer in her country are suffering from the food shortages. And that’s why she’s here today.

[speaking Tunisian Arabic] Hello, everyone. My name is Joubali Raslene. I’m 17 years old, and I’m from Tunisia. I came here today to tell you that I want my voice to get heard by my country, which is one of the most countries that are suffering from climate change. And I want to tell you that climate change is definitely coming, and we must prepare for confrontation. Thank you.

DEBORAH ADEGBILE: Hi. My name is Adegbile Deborah. I’m 12, and I’m from Nigeria. And I’m here to make an impact and represent my country.

IRIS DUQUESNE: [speaking French] Hi. My name is Iris Duquesne. I’m 16, and I’m from France. I am here because climate change is affecting my country economically, but it’s also affecting me personally.

GRETA THUNBERG: [speaking Swedish] My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old, and I am doing this because world leaders are failing to protect the rights of the child by continuing to ignore the climate and ecological crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Greta Thunberg and other young people speaking at UNICEF headquarters about their new complaint filed with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

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