The Prime Minister of Sint Maarten Hon. Silveria Jacobs
delivered the keynote address at the Global Youth Summit on April 20, among others at the EarthX 2022 Conference held in Dallas, Texas.
The prime ministers keynote address focused on the importance of the next generation leadership and island leaders aligning efforts to achieve transformative global change. The address was in line with the the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system", in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. It was signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 1992.
The address was made to a number of conference stakeholders including YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the UNFCCC. YOUNGO is a global network of children and youth activists (up to 35 years) as well as youth Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), who contribute to shaping the intergovernmental climate change policies and strive to empower youth to formally bring their voices to the UNFCCC processes.
In her keynote address, Prime Minister Jacobs thanked EarthX organizers and stakeholders for the invitation to address the meeting and pledged her continued support for youth agencies, underscoring the need to empower them and to facilitate their participation at the national level. “As SIDS (Small Island Development States), given our limited capacity, opportunities to engage with stakeholders, ensures that the best solution, and not custom, is the basis of the decisions taken to achieve our shared global mission as leaders: improving quality of life for our people,” Jacobs said in her address.
In 2009, the UNFCCC secretariat extended constituency status to admitted youth NGOs YOUNGO’s vision is to empower children and youth to take action and works to enhance their skills and capacity to drive the necessary and ambitious climate actions and policies at all levels towards a livable climate just future.
YOUNGO representatives make official statements, provide technical and policy inputs to negotiations, and engage with decision-makers at the UN climate change conferences, and promote youth participation in climate change projects at local and national levels.
In the beginning of Jacobs address, the prime minister reflected: “I remember fondly growing up in the 1970s eating coal pot food. By this time, an eroding manner of daily food preparation, this custom was still practiced by older persons, who looked on with contempt at the new and modern electric stoves that began to fill many homes during this era.
“This custom involved a coal-filled cast-iron pot or skillet used to prepare traditional foods such as johnny cakes, the fluffy golden-coloured circular shaped breads, that we ate with steamed fish, and conchies a corn-based banana-wrapped pie...just some of the many delicacies that peppered our pallets on the sun drenched and slow-paced life on the Caribbean Island of Sint Maarten.
“Coal has been the historic and most prevalent energy source for many countries, powering our factories, moving our ships, or, as my recollection demonstrated, the means to nourish families. As my story also demonstrated, change is often hard as it accompanies a reflective, often existential review of one’s habits and the impact they may negatively have not only on ourselves but on our environment as well.
“The scientific community had begun to realize that despite its reliability and relative abundance, coal’s negative impact on the environment was concerning and its continued use, particularly in large industrial amounts, contributed to an increase in greenhouse gases. Despite the elders’ relative contempt for the “new”, it must be stated that their individual subsistence-based use of coal had a very negligible impact on global greenhouse gas. But, if we scale-up these individual points of views to a community, city, national, or even global level, we quickly see how custom or tradition, often combined with economic or financial limitations, makes bringing about change a challenge.
“As an educator by profession, I have long been captivated by the youth’s willingness to peel back the layers to examine, critique and question norms. This is their strength! Often unhindered by tradition and full of optimism, this willingness to dissect combined with fresh ideas means youth are often well-equipped to address the everchanging and multidimensional issues that form our common agenda.”
Jacobs added that, “If I as an island leader only embraced the ideas and strategies of the older generation, I would be guided by ideas and strategies anachronistic and unable to address future needs, very much like the elder in my opening story who was unable to adopt to shifting energy infrastructures. If we as island leaders don’t facilitate the participation of the next generation, we will only undermine our development and limit our scope to bring about sustainable development and real change at the global level.
“In this regard, very much like how the (Sint Maarten) Youth Parliament, among others, remains a stakeholder with which Government consults, the work of YOUNGO, as a constituency of UNFCCC, is vital in bringing about policies that transform the structures
necessary to meet the challenges of tomorrow. I am encouraged by the great work that this organization does and commend UNFCCC for recognizing the important role that youth have in climate-related discussions.”
The prime minister was happy to engage with the youth at the summit and sees the opportunity for youth representatives of Sint Maarten to be at EarthX 2023 as well as other international youth forums where the country will then have a voice.
GROUP PHOTO: Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs in this group photo with a number of young people and mentors with whom she participated in the reciprocity circle after making her address at the Global Youth Summit.