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20.09.2019 Europe

Why Amnesty France has honored ‘Fridays for Future’ youth climate movement

By Ollia Horton - RFI
Amnesty International/Anthony Cole
LISTEN SEP 20, 2019
Amnesty International/Anthony Cole

On Friday in Paris, thousands turned out for the Fridays for Future student climate march, just one of many similar events around the world. Amnesty International France is presenting the movement's representatives with the 2019 Ambassadors for Conscience award which is shared with the movement's informal leader, Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

“This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future,” said Greta Thunberg as she received Amnesty International's 2019 Ambassadors for Conscience award at a ceremony in Washington D.C on Monday, September 16th, 2019.

“All these fearless youth, fighting for their future. A future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot.”

“That is why every single one of us must push from every possible angle, to hold those responsible and accountable and to make the people in power act and to take the measures required.”

Greta began her school strikes back in August 2018 and since, some thousands of people have joined her under the banner of 'Fridays for Future' every week calling on governments to take urgent action on global warming.

Greta inspires France
The passion and energy of the climate marches soon reached French.

“She is a particularly inspiring figure” Cécile Coudriou, president of Amnesty France said, speaking to RFI about Greta's award.

“She has accomplished what some adults couldn't accomplish. She has an awareness of how serious this climate crisis is.”

It's the first time someone so young has been given this award and Amnesty is keen to underline the importance of supporting youth movements, as when it comes to climate change, they are often the first victims.

That's why, at the end of the climate strike march organized in Paris on Friday, Cécile Coudriou will present members of Youth for Climate France with the same Ambassadors of Conscience Award as Greta.

“We've been very impressed by the perseverance of the young people and how seriously they take this issue. Unfortunately we are sometimes saddened by the fact that they were criticized and not taken so seriously because they were so young.”

Cécile Coudriou regrets that Greta's speech at the National Assembly in France in July, was boycotted by some MPs and insists that the youth have important points to make because they are the ones directly affected by what she describes as “inter-generational violations of human rights.”

“She is right to be here, talking to citizens and their representatives, because obviously governments have been in a kind of apathy.”

For Amnesty France, Cécile Coudriou stresses “it is important to show the link between their [youth] activism and human rights activism because for us it is the same struggle.”

Human rights are climate rights
“When we ask governments and corporations to respect human rights, it is very often related to the environment and the degradation of the environment.”

“What is new today is our determination to build more convergence between different groups.”

“The crisis is so urgent that we absolutely need to unite our forces. We will have much more impact if we act together.”

Greta has called for people to join not only the Friday strike, but to keep up pressure worldwide ahead of the UN climate summit and general assembly in New York next week.

24 year-old French man Côme Girschig is one of a handful of young 'ambassadors' selected to participate in the UN youth climate summit on 21 September in New York.

“I'm going there essentially to listen” he told RFI speaking of his trip to New York.

“I want to open my mind and understand the different perceptions, and the UN is a good place for that. We need to have the perceptions of the other countries, we cannot act like we are one single country.”

Transform passion into action
He acknowledges that the involvement of youth in France in climate issues has evolved significantly, especially presence in protest marches, no small thanks to Greta Thunberg and her team “who have enhanced the general awareness of the problems. The number of people who are aware clearly has increased in the last two years.”

However, he now insists on the need to give more precise directives to the topics currently being addressed.

“We need to give precise orientation for the industry transition, the energy transition, the adaptation and resilience of cities,” he says.

“We have to transform this enthusiasm and passion into a positive, constructive plan for the coming years.”

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