KEYNOTE ADDRESS – Meeting Commission on Peace, Security & Human Rights – Central American Parliament, February 23-25, 2014, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Earlier this years I was invited  to deliver a keynote address at a forum convened by the Commission on Peace, Public Security and Human Rights of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), on 24-25 February, 2014 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. This invitation came with the request that I specifically focus on climate change and its impacts on children and youth in the Central American region.

PARLACEN (Parlamento Centroamericano)is a political legislative body working toward the integration of its member countries in Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic, which initiated its functions in 1991 following treaties signed by countries in the region going back to 1986 and 1987 pertaining to the mission and objectives of existing regional organizations such as SICA (System for the  Integration of Central America) and ODECA (Organization of Central American States).

Most of the work of PARLACEN is conducted by its 13 Permanent Commissions under oversight of the Board, with the objective of conducting research and studies, and of presenting reports and findings to the Plenum, which is the legislative body on the parliament when it is in session. The Commission on Peace, Public Security, and Human Rights, which invited me to speak, is one of the thirteen permanent commissions.

I delivered my keynote address on Challenges of children and youth in Central America facing climate change (‘Retos de la niñez y juventud centroamericana ante el cambio climático’) at a special public event with communications media and members of the public in attendance as well as members of several other PARLACEN permanent commissions. After my keynote the President of the Commission, general Hugo Torres (ThankYouLetterFromMPHugoTorres), representative for Nicaragua, invited comments from commission  members , which he summarized to then open the floor to questions from the audience and the media.

The central message of my keynote address can be summarized as follows: Climate change, nature, do not recognize demographic or socio-cultural factors of affected populations as various regions are impacted. We must be aware that vulnerability is a dynamic and interactive process, and that the consequences of climate change impacts will to a large degree be molded by the state of preparedness and by actions taken or not taken by the population of a given community or region. In this regard I believe there in an implicit worry in the invitation extended to me by PARLACEN, to speak on this topic, that our generation is concerned about the state of the climate that we will leave our children. But I would argue that the main concern should be not what kind of climate we are leaving for our children, but what kind of children we are leaving to confront future climate? What are we doing in terms of contributing to the well-being of the children and youth of today in our countries? What are we doing to ensure these children and youth are well-nourished and have access to medical care and education? What are we doing to empower these children so that when their turn comes to take our places as the generation in-charge, they will be able to effectively confront the impacts of climate change, as well as impacts from natural hazards exacerbated by climate change?