Francisco Vera: UNICEF’s First Advocate for Environmental and Climate Action in Latin America

Colombian activist Francisco Vera was named by UNICEF as the first young advocate for environmental and climate action in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Photo: TW-franciscoactiv2

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Francisco Vera: primer defensor de la acción ambiental y climática en Latinoamérica de UNICEF

On World Environment Day, Francisco Vera, a 13-year-old Colombian activist, was recognized as the first young advocate for environmental and climate action in Latin America and the Caribbean by the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, to promote environmental education and child participation. With this recognition, Vera joins a group of children and young people around the world who exercise environmental leadership. "That each child grows up on a greener, healthier, more sustainable and safer planet" is the main objective of this project, according to UNICEF.

“We are excited to work with him as an advocate for environmental and climate action to ensure that the voices of the youth of our region are heard by those who can and should make the right decisions,” said Garry Conille, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Francisco Javier Vera has been a recognized activist in his country for several years. In 2019, at the age of 9, he made an intervention in the Colombian Congress to ask for animal protection laws, to regulate single-use plastics, and to prohibit fracking and protect the moors. Unfortunately, Latin America is the most dangerous region to be an environmental defender, and children are not exempt. Francisco received threats for his activism. Despite this, he is a brave young man who has upheld his principles. Today, from Spain, he continues to advocate for the protection of the environment and for the crucial role of youth and children in decision-making in this area.

In recent years, he has taken his claims to the international stage, without removing the focus on Colombia and Latin America. He was appointed in 2021 goodwill ambassador of the European Union and child adviser to the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations Organization. This is combined with leadership in a group called "Guardians for Life", which promotes environmental education, and activism on social networks.

We suggest you read: Infographic: The Citizens of Which Countries Care The Most About the Environment?

What does it mean to Francisco Vera to join this UNICEF group?

Being part of UNICEF's advocacy group, Vera will be able to amplify his voice in various settings. "Francisco will have the opportunity to inspire more children to be part of the change the world needs and to reach decision makers to demand the participation of children in decisions related to the environment and climate, among other issues that directly affect them," said a UNICEF statement.

Likewise, Francisco is working with the organization and another group of young people in the preparation of the climate meetings and negotiations that will take place from June 5 to 15 in Bonn, Germany. This meeting is part of the meetings of the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (SB58) in preparation for the next COP.

Children and adolescents must be part of decision-making

It is important that children and adolescents are part of environmental decision-making for various reasons. Firstly, as future leaders, they will inherit the planet and it is essential that they develop a sense of responsibility and commitment from an early age. At this point, it is crucial that environmental education becomes a right.

Additionally, your fresh and innovative perspective can bring creative ideas and novel solutions to environmental challenges. Involving children and adolescents in environmental decisions gives them the opportunity to learn, increases their awareness of environmental problems, and fosters their empowerment and active participation as responsible citizens. Including their voices promotes the development of leadership skills and strengthens their commitment to protecting the environment throughout their lives.

We must not forget that there are thousands of boys and girls who actively contribute to their communities around the world and who have multiple capacities to transform their environment. People like Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai began their struggles from a very young age, and today they are world leaders who have promoted great movements.

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