Lao Children Raise their Voice for Climate Justice

© World Vision International – Last September, the village of 11-year-old Nice was covered by water after Tropical Storm Noru hit Laos

From 6-18 November, world leaders have gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP27. This edition marks the 30th anniversary of adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) World Vision is actively participating in COP27, calling on leaders to listen to children as they tell how the climate crisis has affected their lives and communities and call for a global commitment to the 1.5-degree climate change goal. Given children are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, their future must be at the heart of leaders’ planning and decision-making.

In Laos, some of the most vulnerable children supported by World Vision have addressed messages to the international decision-makers gathered in Egypt. In Soukhouma district, Champasack province, Miss Phine, 12 years old, and Mr. Nice, 11, were affected by the recent tropical storm Noru.

Their families’ struggles are exacerbated by climate change, with more frequent natural disasters resulting in flooding and loss of livelihood. “We didn’t have food, and all the things in our house were damaged,” says Phine.

“I did not go to school because it was submerged in water. The floods affected our community for five days, and damaged our rice fields,” adds Nice.

Souksavanh, a 15-year-old teenage boy from Thapangthong district, Savannakhet province, echoes a similar sentiment, “The floods make it hard for my family every year to make ends meet. This time around, the accumulated water covered our home garden and cut off the road. I would like the world to know how much my family struggled in the past years.”

The climate crisis is affecting everyone, but girls and boys in the most vulnerable communities bear the brunt of the impacts despite being the least responsible for it. Nearly 1 billion children across the globe are now living in countries at extremely high risk of climate change and environmental hazards.

World Vision stresses the importance of putting children at the center of the solution: “It is vital that leaders at COP27 hear the voices of children affected by climate change – and that they take action,” said Andrew Morley, President and CEO of World Vision International. The INGO believes that responding to climate change is a justice issue.

Climate justice represents the interdependence of human rights, development, and climate action, an approach that places children at the center of the climate crisis and brings about solutions that are good for people and the planet by upholding their rights.

In the past three years, the child-focused organization has supported 100 rural communities to improve their capacities to cope with disasters and increase their preparedness when hazards arise. World Vision equally trained thirty of their staff to compose a National Disaster Management Team (NDMT) to intervene responsively during emergency response and humanitarian affairs. With its new strategy, World Vision has also increased its focus on climate change, with new initiatives on climate smart agriculture to be launched in the coming months.

World Vision has been operating in Laos since 1991 and working towards building a brighter future for children and creating opportunities for them to reach their full potential.