The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Youth Movement Building for Action on Climate Justice
By Eric Grignol on April 19, 2022
Ineza Umuhoza Grace was born and raised in Rwanda, part of a community that has a deep connection to the land. Over centuries, people have developed successful ways of navigating challenges to living off the land—coping with long rainy seasons and the mountainous terrain of their country. Today, Rwandan farmers continue to depend on seasonal crops for prosperous livelihoods.
However, climate change is placing increased burdens on Rwandans as even heavier rains erode soil beds, cause life-threatening mudslides and destruction of homes, and kill livestock. In 2020, Rwanda lost more than 4,000 hectares of cropland due to intensive rainfall and erosion. And for many communities, this “washing away of agricultural income” is only the beginning. Land degradation is a precursor to displacement, affecting an increasing number of families in the region—including Ineza’s—who were forced to leave their family home because of climate change.
Ineza has seen firsthand the drastic changes happening in Rwanda. As she puts it, “These damages are profound. These losses are irreplaceable.” Similar to other countries that have contributed the least to climate change, her community is at the frontline of mitigating these negative impacts.
As a result, Ineza has committed to take action for achieving climate justice, working to repair the environmental harms to the place she calls home and many similar communities in the Global South. She is part of a growing global youth movement aiming to create a borderless youth partnership to drive action to address loss and damage, which is a significant injustice as it steals hope for a better future.
They do this by uplifting the lived experiences of loss and damage that largely go unseen and unheard. They call on governments to take loss and damage with a sense of urgency, urging the Global North to listen and act to end its outsized contributions to carbon emissions which damage the planet and people. They also train global youth to learn how they can engage both on the national and international level in addressing loss and damage.
“We are all exposed and vulnerable, but for one side of the world, we are protecting the future, and for the other side, we are protecting today,” Ineza said. “LDYC intends to prove that the future will be secured if we all engage to protect today for a better tomorrow.”
Watch a short video about Ineza’s story and hear her call to listen and act:
Recently, UUSC became the first funder of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition (LDYC), a new partner organization where Ineza serves as its Coordinator. UUSC’s support of LDYC is opening doors for youth from across the globe to gain access to spaces, including the United Nations Climate Change Conference, ensuring their stories are heard. We recognize that elevating youth voices is pivotal to achieving systemic change for climate justice. Youth must be part of the solution as active stakeholders.
That solution involves LDYC’s campaign, which:
- raises awareness of climate-driven extreme weather events happening to communities who have contributed the least to the crisis;
- provides training opportunities for youth groups to advocate for loss and damage (inside and outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process) policy changes; and
- advocates for commitments for new and additional financing for countries to address loss and damage.
Youth on the frontlines of climate justice movements know they will inherit the repercussions of a more hostile climate. By leveraging technology and storytelling from a youth perspective, new leaders like Ineza are emerging to pressure global leaders to change policy and reverse course, providing hope for a more sustainable world.
Photo Credit—Loss and Damage Youth Coalition