THE ninth annual International Youth Day was celebrated in Phnom Penh on Monday with a conference to discuss what the organisers say is one of the most serious issues facing young people around the world today: climate change.
"Youths have a very important role in taking care of our climate or environment, but in order to protect the environment they have to understand first what ‘the environment' is," said Lak Sam Ath, director general of youth and sports at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, speaking at the conference.
The event was organised by youth groups, including the United Nations Youth Advisory Panel and around 500 people attended, the majority of them students or young people from youth organisations.
"Young people need to know that they are very important in addressing the climate change issue," said Bun Sambath, program officer of the Youth Resource Development Program.
The lure of the SUV
"We are all already feeling the effects of global climate change," said Heng Sok Lim, a youth from Khmer Youth and Social Development (KYSD). "People want to drive big cars but it's bad for the environment," he added.
According to UN estimates, by 2016 there will be a 20 percent rise in deaths from chronic disease in young people.
"The top three causes of deaths in young people today are respiratory conditions, diarrhoea and malaria. To solve this we need clean air, clean water and a stable climate. All of these things will be negatively affected by climate change," said UN resident coordinator Tony Lisle, speaking at the conference. "Today, the challenge for young people is to correct the mistakes of my generation," he said.