Colombian child climate activist meets with UN human rights chief

Geneva, Jul 5 (EFE).- Colombian child climate activist Francisco Vera was received by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk in this Swiss city, where they discussed the importance of providing spaces for young people to express their views on environmental rights and climate change.

The 13-year-old Vera, who has lived for the past two years in Spain due to death threats, is one of the leading voices in the ambit of environmental activism in Latin America and the Caribbean and was recently named by UNICEF as the first youth advocate for environmental and climate action for that region.

His visit to Geneva’s historic Palais Wilson building, headquarters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, coincides with the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a foundational document that establishes the rights and freedoms to which all human being are entitled.

“With the Human Rights Office, we’ve carried out a series of informative actions and actions in the field, like planting trees to uphold the human right to a healthy environment,” Vera told Efe moments before meeting with Turk.

In his role, the activist said he hopes to inspire more youth and adolescents to lift up their voices and transform their territories, not exclusively in the environmental sphere but in response to any situation of injustice.

“I’m calling on young people to raise their voices, join the climate movements and continue making these petitions that we’ve been making for a long time,” Vera said.

“It’s a necessity. Not only because we’re increasingly vulnerable to climate change, but also because this creates contexts of malnutrition, violence and children’s rights violations, especially in the countries of the Southern Hemisphere,” he added.

“We’re not just victims. We’re also agents of change who can participate and engage in dialogue,” Vera said, adding that adults are often focused on causes other than climate change.

“They don’t focus on the root of the problem … but rather on interests, such as economic ones,” he said. “Or what benefits the few overrides the wellbeing of the majority of the population that is suffering from climate change.”

The activist presented Turk a copy of the “Declaracion Conjunta por la Eco-Esperanza” (Joint Declaration for Eco-Hope), a manifesto he wrote in partnership with fellow members of the “Guardians for LIfe” movement, which he and six other Colombian boys and girls founded in 2019.

Vera currently lives in Barcelona but says he hopes to return one day to Colombia once the security situation for environmental activists improves.

“His dream is to be president of Colombia,” his mother, who is accompanying him in Switzerland, said proudly.



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