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Northern Ireland young people tell us what changes they’d like to see after One Young World

Northern Ireland young people tell us what changes they'd like to see after One Young World
Belfast Live  
Oct. 4, 2023

As One Young World delegates grappled with the climate crisis and mental health in Belfast on Wednesday - we spoke to three young people from across NI to see what changes they'd like to see after learning from others from around the world.

Megan Doherty, Ciarán Ferrin and Cathy Laverty all got the chance to speak with young people from over 190 countries after being sponsored to attend the Belfast summit by the Education Authority.

On Tuesday, the trio heard Bob Geldof and others talk about food insecurity and what needs to be done to make sure no one goes to bed hungry at night.

Derry woman, Megan Doherty, said: "What I've learned so far is a lot about food security, which is something I wasn't very familiar with before the conference. We heard Angela F Williams [CEO of the world's biggest charity, United Way] who spoke really well about the intricacies of food security and how it really impacts people and families right across the globe.

"It's something that really affects people in Northern Ireland as well and it was something I really wasn't aware of."

Megan, 24, said it also shocked her to learn from some at the conference how "their nation is only 6m above water level so with climate change their whole country will be gone".

"That's something really powerful because in Northern Ireland that's not something we will really face but we are a coastal region so we will see some effects of climate change in that change," she said.

"It was really impactful to hear that some people will be climate refugees and they will have to move their whole nations as a result of climate change. In terms of climate justice we do need to recognise that the global north has contributed so much [to climate crisis] and continues to do so.

"We sign agreements but we don't follow through and I think it's very frustrating. One of the ways we could help is offer funding to those countries but definitely accepting climate refugees because at the end of the day it's our actions that are directly impacting them and they are going to find it extremely hard or completely unliveable in their countries."

Cathy Laverty, from Ballycastle, said she was struck by the challenges other countries have growing enough food when "sometimes farmers here have too much produce".

The 22-year-old told us the conference was "really insightful" and while she works in education she comes from a "farming background".

"I didn't actually realise how much climate affected so many people in so many countries," she added.

"I've taken for granted how lucky we are, the machinery we have and how resourceful farming is here.

"Hearing from other people that they find it difficult to find resources or they can't sell their produce - we find it quite easy in NI, Ireland and the UK but in other countries it seems really difficult... that's where the food crisis comes in."

Cathy says she is now "starting to see it all link up" and "how there are solutions, we just need to work together".

"One meal a day is a big deal and anyone who gets that one meal, it makes a big difference to their logic and their mental health.

"I never connected those dots before until I heard everybody speak."

Ciarán Ferrin, sustainability and social value officer at Lagan Specialist Contractors and Belfast's Youth Climate Commission chair, told us: "The topics discussed were far-reaching and it was really interesting to hear from indigenous communities to politicians, lawyers, advocates to activists, from all corners of society - that's the main reason we are here."

He told us he is really keen to get people that aren't interested in conversations around issues including food security and climate more involved because "when the politicians, the legislators and the lawmakers are passing these rules we take need to take everything on board."

While he told us he cares most about sustainability, the Queen's and UU graduate, also learned a lot about the importance of system change.

"With mob culture and social media and globalisation, it's ever more imperative that we try and include everyone in the conversation these days and to do things properly... and allow the best ideas to rise to the top," he added.

In Northern Ireland, the young man says he would like to see a "functioning government here" as well as the work happening in our communities "recognised".

"With climate... we have to look at each system individually - that could be the educations system, transport, energy. At the end of the day all these components go back to individuals in society and so... people have decisions to make and I believe you could make a better decision second to second for people, the planet and the economy.

"The knowledge is out there for people to make better choices.

Ciarán says it was great to see One Young World held in Belfast, as people from other countries have been able to see the "spirit and tenacity" here.

"I think we should takes the notes from here and apply them to Belfast."

Angela F Williams told One Young World delegates on Tuesday, food insecurity manifests differently around the world - with 10% worldwide going to bed hungry every night.

According to a new report by Save the Children NI, some families in NI are short of food because of benefits issues while many turn to food banks to make ends meet amid rising food costs, with the SDLP's Paul Doherty bringing a motion to council to make Belfast a 'Right to Food' city.

Ms Williams told one Young World: "We all need food to survive… rarely have any of us performed as our best selves when we are hungry."

If the issue continues, she says: “We lose future leaders… we lose economic resources… time and talent. We cannot afford to lose any of that."