A few months ago, I was selected to participate in the Peace Boat Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Programme which involved joining youth leaders from other Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Caribbean countries for a 17-day voyage from Stockholm to New York to share messages with civil society and government representatives highlighting the importance of ocean conservation and critical relationship between ocean and climate.
During the three-week trip I was able to experience totally new environments and surround myself with new culture, knowledge and people. I didn’t possess strong knowledge of global geography but during the voyage across Europe and the Arctic Circle I saw things that had previously only existed on television, like icebergs and penguins.
I was very surprised when I landed in Stockholm because it was 11pm but still daylight outside. Because I live in a tropical country I found the weather very cold, although everyone was telling me that it was summertime!
During the voyage, the other youth ambassadors and I met different guest speakers where we shared information about and discussed climate change and ocean-related issues, using the ‘Talanoa’ dialogue concept to support our discussions.
‘Talanoa’ is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue to share stories, build empathy and make wise decisions for the collective good.
The climate change and ocean degradation issues we identified affecting small island states included slash and burn agriculture, deforestation, sea level rises, coral destruction and bleaching and pollution of the ocean with rubbish including plastic.
We also discussed the importance of awareness raising and capacity building in collaboration with development partners including Government, private sector and communities and that strong conservation laws, community advocacy and formal and non-formal education are required to create positive impacts.
Through the ‘Talanoa’ dialogue we were able to engage a wide range of people who we met during the voyage including young environmental activists and Government and private sector representatives.
We discussed how to combat climate change and ocean pollution. Some people who live in mainland countries might not witness the impact but for people like us living on coastal areas of small island states, we know the problems well and have seen sea level rises, coral bleaching and changing patterns first hand.
We participated in many different activities in the different destinations including in Stockholm where we participated in an event with the Global Challenges Foundation, in Copenhagen where we learned about Denmark’s efforts to generate renewable energy through wind farms, in Bergen where we participated in an event organised by the United Nations Association of Norway and Bergen University and visited a plastic exhibition museum.
In Reykjavik we had an opportunity to visit the last coal power station in Iceland and met author and environmental activist Andri Magnasson, in Halifax we met with energy and environment staff from the Government of Canada to discuss climate adaptation and mitigation solutions and finally in New York we participated in a partnership expo onboard the Peace Boat as part of the high level political forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We ended three weeks of activities by participating in an event at UN headquarters focusing on the role of youth, education and sustainable tourism in achieving the SDGs where I felt proud to represent Timor-Leste to share the challenges we face because of climate change and ocean pollution.
Now that I am back in Dili, I am happy to have been able to bring home my knowledge and experiences and share what I have learned with other youth in Timor-Leste!