The Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors celebrate World Oceans Day in New York City

Jun 19, 2019

On June 7, Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors arrived in New York City, where the programme concluded with three intense days of activities to celebrate World Oceans Day with United Nations (UN) and civil society partners. They first took part in official activities at the UN Headquarters. The UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs and Oceanic Global were the main organizers of this event full of storytellers and panelists, exploring the gender dimension of our human relationship with the ocean. Eparama Qerewaqa, Peace Boat’s youth ambassador from Fiji, performed with Hinano Teavai-Murphy, president of the Association Te Pu Atitia in Tahiti. They shared stories of mythology from their home nations in the Pacific. 

As part of the celebrations at the UN, Peace Boat in collaboration with the UN Office for Partnerships hosted a special event at the UN headquarters for global youth leaders to highlight local initiatives for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) featuring Daniela Fernandez, founder of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, and Tre Packard, founder of the PangeaSeed Foundation. Khadija Stewart, the youth ambassador from Trinidad and Tobago, spoke about the importance of using the technology that connects us all and our talents to raise climate and ocean awareness and encourage meaningful action. “For me, it was an excellent opportunity to not only be present at the United Nations but to share a panel with exceptional young people making waves across the globe inspiring other young people to take action”, she said. 

The youth leaders continued to the Explorers Club, an international multidisciplinary professional society founded in 1905 to promote scientific exploration and field study. There they took part in the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp which empowers existing and emerging youth leaders to create their own campaigns to take action against ocean plastic pollution. Opened by the Assistant Secretary-General to the United Nations and followed by this youth-centric panel it featured Elsei Tellei, Peace Boat’s youth ambassador from Palau, as a keynote speaker. She spoke about the environmental initiatives that her country is carrying out to protect the environment.  

The first day of activities in New York concluded onboard the ship with the official reception for the UN for World Oceans Day, held in collaboration with UN partners including the UN Office of Partnerships. The Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors spoke and performed as part of the programme. 

On June 8 a family-friendly day of activities was held onboard Peace Boast, providing a venue for civil society to highlight local initiatives on the SDGs. Nathalia Lawen, the youth ambassador from Seychelles, gave a keynote speech at the Youth Leaders Bootcamp with youth leaders from New York City where she shared her experience working against plastic pollution in Seychelles. Nathaniel Soon, Peace Boat’s youth ambassador from Singapore, spoke on a panel about storytelling where he shared some of his work in film and videography. “What an awesome experience celebrating World Oceans Day on board the ship, rather than in a conventional event venue. A splendid evening of performances and conversations, as we celebrated over our shared love for the oceans. Great networks were also formed the next day, with people from all walks of life, lots of scientists, community activists, and young leaders. For me, it was a dream come true to meet legends like Dr. Sylvia Earle, Fabien Cousteau or Cristina Mittermeier. A life-changing day in a life-changing voyage, for sure”, he said.

For their third day in New York City, the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors took part in a beach clean-up organized by 4Ocean at Rockaway Beach. In just a few hours, almost 2000 participants collected 1,345 plastic bottles and 4,695 cigarette butts, among other wastes. “It was so gratifying to see so many people turning out for the ocean. I saw teenagers, adults, and families, all working together to clean up the beach. I only hope that the simple act of picking up plastic trash off the sand has inspired those same people to continue to advocate for the oceans so that they don’t just care for the ocean on a Sunday off but every day, in their daily routine”, summed up Elsei Tellei from Palau. 

With this activity in New York City, Peace Boat concluded the third edition of the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors Programme and all the youth taking part returned home to keep their work raising awareness about climate change and ocean degradation in their local communities.