Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of

Message from Mr Koïchiro Matsuura,
Director-General of UNESCO
on the occasion of International Youth Day
”Young people and climate change: time for action”
12 August 2008
In this International Year of Planet Earth, the 2008 International Youth Day, with its
focus on the theme "Young people and climate change: time for action", is highly
topical. At a time when climate change and, more widely, sustainable development
are compelling recognition as major challenges for contemporary societies, young
people, more than ever, have a fundamental role to play.
This International Day provides an opportunity to alert young people to a threat that
may directly affect them in a few years’ time, to encourage them to become
involved on a daily basis in finding innovative solutions, and to take up the
development challenges facing their world.
UNESCO’s strategy in this field is aimed at contributing not only to the development
of scientific knowledge, but also to promoting practices and policies based on
ethical values. Indeed, over and above its scientific aspects, climate change has
numerous other dimensions, which are as much environmental as social, economic
and cultural.
UNESCO actively supports the role of young researchers who are working on
ocean dynamics and links between climate change and biodiversity. By way of
illustration, allow me to mention the fellowship programme of our Man and the
Biosphere (MAB) Programme, which is aimed at helping young scientists to take
part in research and development in these fields. Upstream, the World Commission
on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), an independent
expert body which advises me on ethics, promotes acknowledgement of the social
DG/ME/ID/2008/12 – Original: French
and ethical dimension of climate change in various scientific curricula and in
science teaching at university.
But as lead agency for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable
Development (2005-2014), UNESCO is also doing much to sensitize the public to
the problem of climate change. Young people, as citizens of the world, are at the
heart of this educational action. Thus, the joint YouthXchange initiative of UNESCO
and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommends patterns of
consumption and a lifestyle which are respectful of sustainable development.
While climate change is a global problem, each of us has the capacity to change
something in that regard. Increasing numbers of local and even individual initiatives
will ultimately have an impact at the international level. I therefore urge young
people to put all their dynamism, creativity and energy into this global combat, and I
call upon governments and their civil society partners to help them to take action in
order to build a world that is consonant with their aspirations.
Koïchiro Matsuura
DG/ME/ID/2008/12 – page 2