UWC youth at Copenhagen

Tina Bylinski, Charlie Young (AC 08-10)

At the heart of the Bella Centre, the venue playing host to the infamous UN climate summit last December, hung a large, eggshell white globe suspended by a thin wire. Countries deep black of spilled ink carelessly thrown onto canvas. China, India, US even a country as small as the UK was on. The secretariat hadn’t noticed that a myriad of island nations were missing. A prophecy? Ten friends, mostly from Wales under the banner of UNfairplay, we crossed the sea to support the under represented-delegations of vulnerable countries. Digesting documents, attending meetings and taking notes; we helped the delegation of Kiribati negotiate and spread their message. Grateful for our support, we were made official delegates and spent the last night having dinner with the President.

His humility uplifting, in his measured tone he asked why the inhabitants of the biggest emitters are forcing millions of islanders to change their lifestyles, when they are currently finding it so difficult themselves. He spoke of love, for nature and the human. Of sacrifice merely being the conscious decision to live another kind of life. To know there is a man in his position commanding such profound respect is a message of hope. 24 nations, mostly small island developing states and LDCs, had under 8 delegates at the conference compared to the hundreds that other nations could support. The Alliance Of Small Island States is one of the most organized coalitions at the conference. Their willingness to speak the truth in the face of countless lies gained them press coverage across the world and the support of millions. Had they not been crippled by their lack of delegates and under-resourced team they could have been far more effective at getting their voice heard at negotiations. In this regard, the energy of the youth and volunteers present was an incredible, largely untapped resource which may only need a spark to light it. We, at least partially, leveled out the playing field and realized the powerful impact a dedicated group can have under their own steam. At the next UN climate summit in Mexico, a new group of 15 students from United World Colleges are planning to sail across the Atlantic to fulfil the same goals as UNfairplay, we’re in contact with the secretariat about endorsement and have had nothing but positive feedback and encouragement. With anticipation, we wait to see what the future brings.

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