A 26-year-old woman who is not only a co-founder of an environmental NGO and a teacher, but also a journalist, poet and spoken-word artist, was selected Friday to address the opening ceremony of the Climate Change Summit, to be held 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York.
During her talk, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s audience is expected to include more than 100 Heads of State.
“My poetry mainly focuses on raising awareness surrounding the issues and threats faced by my people,” she writes on her blog. “Nuclear testing conducted in our islands, militarism, the rising sea level as a result of climate change, forced migration, adaptation and racism in America – these are just a few themes my poetry touches upon. Besides these, I also use poetry as a means of understanding the people and the world around me.”
Jetnil-Kijiner”s NGO is called Jo-JiKuM, and focuses on “empowering the youth of the Marshall Islands about issues related to environmentalism and climate change and the impacts it has on our lives.”
The group”s motto is “Liok tūt bok” — like the bōb/pandanus tree, which visibly roots itself deep within the land, we, the youth of the Marshall Islands should do the same.
Among other topics, Jetnil-Kijiner teaches Issues in Pacific Studies at the College of the Marshall Islands.
“I”m really excited for this opportunity to speak on an issue that is really close to my heart,” she said upon learning that she has been chosen to speak during the Summit”s opening. “I want to bring my people”s message out to the world, that climate change is a threat that we need to take more seriously. I hope that my participation in this event will make a contribution.”
Her selection was the culmination of weeks of effort that followed an open call from the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) in July for nominations of civil society speakers and attendees for the Summit. By the 15 August deadline, 544 people had been nominated from 115 countries.
The UN-NGLS then facilitated a civil society Selection and Drafting Committee, which reviewed the nominees and short-listed 76 candidates for consideration by the Secretary-General”s Climate Support Team (CCST).
From this list of 76, the CCST selected Jetnil-Kijiner, three panelists to participate in a thematic debate that is being organized by UN Women, UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund called “Voices from the Frontlines of Climate Change,” and another 34 people to attend the Summit.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Heads of State and Government along with leaders from business, finance, and civil society to the Climate Summit to catalyze ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen climate resilience, and to mobilize political will toward achieving an ambitious, legally binding international climate change agreement by 2015.