ACE Fellows Get Loud at UN and Cover High-level Climate Events

As part of the Get Loud Challenge, ACE Fellows from New York City joined ACE staff at United Nations headquarters this week for the High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and the historic signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. Fellows played a vital role in interviewing celebrities like Forest Whitaker, and notable attendees like the United Nations President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft.

"We, together, must unite to save ourselves.”

          —Victoria Barrett, 17, UN Headquarters

ACE partnered with Connect4Climate for this week’s events, a global partnership program of the World Bank aiming to communicate about climate change to the most diverse audiences possible through innovative means. ACE worked with Max Thabiso Edkins, Climate Change Expert at Connect4Climate, World Bank, to position Fellows in the United Nations Digital Media Zone as key youth reporters. Fellows live-tweeted, captured photo and video, co-ran a selfie station, and blogged about the events taking place on Thursday and Friday.

Most notably, ACE Fellow, Victoria Barrett, addressed the attendees in the UN General Assembly Hall on Thursday during the opening ceremony of the High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as the only young person in the line-up. Victoria’s powerful speech gripped the room when she said, “we are all the 18 million people of Bangladesh projected to be climate refugees by mid-Century. We are all the nations of the Global South being disproportionately affected by climate disruption. And we, together, must unite to save ourselves.”

In an interview conducted by ACE Fellow, Dinaz Kureishy, with actor, Forest Whitaker, shortly after Victoria’s speech, he said “they [the youth] must manifest in their lives and environment, invest themselves in the future. You are a leader by coming here today. Help give them opportunity, and lead them.” He called on world leaders to be “the architects shaping the world's future."

As a young person, I learned today that there is an entire population that cares about what is happening to the earth around us. The real question I’m left with is: will caring be enough to create change?

In a riveting speech given by actor, Leonardo DiCaprio this morning, he said, “You know climate change is happening faster than even the most pessimistic scientists warned us before. Think about the shame that each one of us will carry when our children and grandchildren look back and realize we had the means to stop the devastation, but lacked the political will to do so.” He continued, “Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. Now is the time for bold, unprecedented action.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. DiCaprio. That’s why I’m spending this Earth Day reporting from the UN Digital Media Zone on behalf of young people across the planet.


Kazi Ateea is a 2015-2016 Action Fellow in New York City. She attends the High School for Medical Professions.