At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2022, leaders declared 2023 as a year dedicated to youth-led action for sustainable and inclusive development.
Suluafi Brianna Fruean is a Climate Activist, who has been leading projects since learning about the effects of climate change and noticing the changes to her island of Samoa as a child. At just 11, she became climate organization 350.org’s youngest country coordinator, and at 16, she became the youngest winner of the Commonwealth Youth Award. Growing up in the climate movement Brianna has been involved in all areas of climate justice, from grassroots to government.
With Samoa hosting CHOGM in 2024 and becoming Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth Brianna was invited to give a reflection at this year’s Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration. Read her message in full below or watch on BBC iPlayer or the BBC YouTube channel for an international audience.
“My name is Suluafi Brianna Fruean and I am from the islands of Samoa, in your neighbouring Pacific ocean.
I made it here today because of the village that raised me. My parents support, my grandparents’ prayers, my mentor’s guidance, microphones passed, opportunities offered, spaces shared and the belief in my ability to voyage on a journey for change.
I am neither special, nor rare. There are millions of passionate young people like me in our Commonwealth. Not waiting to be leaders of tomorrow but embracing their leadership roles as active citizens, today.
Young people in my region, like tens of thousands of others across our small island states, are at the frontline of the ongoing climate crisis. But we are not simply victims of this reality, we have been fighting climate change and its causes, consumerism, pollution, and the expanding fossil fuel industry for decades.
Mobilizing our communities, building resilience and leading the environmental renaissance of reviving our indigenous and symbiotic relationship with nature. Youth have shown what real climate leadership looks like.
This passion and drive by our global youth can be found in all world changing spaces today. From the fight for gender equality to ending poverty. This generation is the most connected generation the world has ever seen and we have been using this connectedness to become changemakers beyond borders.
It is our responsibility as a global community to give our young people the space, opportunity and investment to be the changemakers that our world so desperately needs.
I am here today because people invested in me. I am not self-made, I am community-made. I am village-made. A Pacific village from a long line of voyagers. Voyagers who knew that the strongest canoe was anchored and steered by our elders but powered by our youth. Our youth are critical for harnessing energy and gifting visionary foresight. Our elders are critical for guidance and wisdom.
So, for our present and past generation, you’re not off the hook. We still need you to pick up your paddles for the long voyage ahead, because only when we row together can our voyage withstand the rough seas.
Now more than ever, as our global community faces challenges on multiple fronts, we need a strong intergenerational way of voyaging where youth are given the space to sit at the front of our canoe as we sail towards the future we envision.”
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.