x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Eco-warrior UAE pupil represents the region at UN assembly

Kehkashan Basu was the only invited speaker from the Middle East to face more than 800 members of the 12th Youth Assembly at the UN's headquarters in New York this month.

Kehkashan Basu, the global coordinator for the United Nations Environment Programme’s youth division, was the sole invited speaker from the Middle East at the 12th Youth Assembly in New York. Antonie Robertson / The National
Kehkashan Basu, the global coordinator for the United Nations Environment Programme’s youth division, was the sole invited speaker from the Middle East at the 12th Youth Assembly in New York. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // A schoolgirl has realised her long-held dream of addressing the United Nations - at the tender age of 13.

Kehkashan Basu was the only invited speaker from the Middle East to face more than 800 members of the 12th Youth Assembly at the UN's headquarters in New York this month.

"It was like a dream come true. I was extremely excited to be there," said Kehkashan, a pupil at the Millennium School in Dubai.

Basu became the first child to be appointed global coordinator for the United Nations Environment Programme's youth division when she was 12.

She spoke to the audience in New York about the post-2015 development agenda. "I talked about things that matter to us as young people and how we can play a role and get involved in sustainable development," she said.

"It was an amazing experience talking to everyone from around the world and learning about what they are all doing in their countries.

"The most memorable part was when the secretary general, Mr Ban Ki Moon, came to talk to us. I was in the front row just a few metres away from him. It was so cool to see him in person."

Some of the young people Kehkashan met at the UN joined her organisation, Green Hope UAE.

"We children are an extremely potent force and we are concerned that we are marginalised and neglected in the sustainable development dialogue," she said.

"We need more opportunities to show that we can make a difference. We are the one who will be living through it, so why don't you ask us?"

Kehkashan believes people need more education about environmental issues, such as land degradation and climate change.

"A lack of awareness is why people are not bothered to do enough to help," she said. "The UAE Government is doing a lot to combat land degradation but society needs to focus more on the issue. We all have to do our part if we are going aim for a sustainable future."

Kehkashan plans to run awareness programmes at labour camps and organise a marine clean-up.

"I was born on June 5, which is World Earth Day, so I think it was preordained that I would be passionate about the environment and protecting Mother Nature," she said.

malkhan@thenational.ae