Malala heads youth call for action on poverty and climate in 2015

As global coalition on poverty and climate launches, 15-year-old activists take their demands to the top

Malala Yousafzai is among the young people supporting the action/2015 campaign (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

In more than 50 countries across the world, 15-year-old activists will meet with political leaders today to demand action on climate change, poverty and inequality.

The meetings will take place to mark the launch of a global campaign called action/2015, which hopes to raise awareness of a series of critical summits taking place this year.

A number of celebrities have endorsed the campaign, including Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai, actors Matt Damon and Hugh Jackman and musicians Annie Lennox and Shakira, all of whom have signed an open letter to world leaders.

“People globally want an end to injustice, poverty and illiteracy,” said Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for her education campaigning.

“Our world is interconnected and youth are ready and mobilised more than ever to see real change take place. Together, we are demanding our leaders take action in 2015 and we must all do our part.”

Youth leadership

The adoption of the UN’s new sustainable development goals in September and the Paris climate conference in December are key rallying points for the campaign, which involves over 1,000 NGOs, including Save the Children and Amnesty International, as well as groups working on the ground.

Youth-led actions taking place today include meetings with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, the prime minister of Norway, and the deputy president of Tanzania. UK prime minister David Cameron met with youth activists Katie Knight and Bhavi Elangeswaran at Downing Street yesterday.

There have also been marches in Bolivia, Belgium, Nigeria, and Indonesia, a human chain in Lebanon and bicycle rides in Costa Rica and Bangladesh.

“We have been talking about 2015 for a long time so it is exciting that it has started,” said Jamie Drummond, executive director of the anti-poverty group ONE.

Between these crucial summits, action will vary country by country, he added, with activists in Tanzania and Nigeria focusing on local elections, and those in Germany on the G7 summit in June.

New research by the University of Denver says that almost a billion extra people could face lives of extreme poverty – defined as living on less than $1.25 a day – unless leaders take action this year.

“It is not a foregone conclusion that things just get better,” said Jonathan Glennie, director of policy and research at Save the Children.

The campaign is calling for four specific outcomes from the 2015 negotiations: an end to poverty in all its forms; the meeting of fundamental rights, tackling equality and discrimination; an accelerated transition to 100% renewable energy; and a world where leaders are held accountable.

Data collection and analysis will be key to ensuring measurable and fair results, added Drummond: “People must be able to follow the money.”

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