Dear students and teachers,

Environmental activists and volunteers,

Government representatives, and

Distinguished members of the academic community


It is a pleasure to address you today on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme.

I’d like to thank the leadership of the Children and Youth Development Center for organizing this online awards ceremony during these challenging times.

I’d also like to thank our colleagues from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, Deputy Ministers Firudin Gurbanov and Vugar Karimov.

And of course, a special ‘thank you’ goes to Azerbaijan’s amazing youth who took part in these competitions, playing an exceptional role in raising awareness about the impacts of climate change—which is now a bigger threat than ever.

2020 has been devastating for both planet and people.

Record breaking Atlantic hurricanes.

Enormous wildfires in Australia, the USA, Siberia and Brazil.

And a pandemic in which millions have died and many millions more have lost their chance to work, study or see their loved ones.

The warning lights – from nature and society - are flashing red.

But 2020 should not have been a surprise.

Scientists have long been predicting extreme weather events and the outbreak of a viruses leaping from nature.

Our actions – particularly our dependence on fossil fuels and material consumption - are driving climate change, biodiversity collapse, ocean acidification, air and water pollution, and land degradation.

We must act quickly and boldly.

According to UNDP’s Global Human Development Report, launched in this very moment across the globe, we must change and this change starts by rejecting the idea that to advance human development we must choose between people or trees. It is neither or both, because human development at the expense of the planet is not development at all. I urge you to exploe the report further available online

Each and everyone of us has a role to play.

But we need to be inspired to play it and given the opportunities to act.

Studies suggest that 80 percent of people already think it is important to protect the planet, but fewer than 50 percent are likely to take action to do. People’s behavior can be particularly influenced by that of those around them.  

And youth is the biggest influencer, the agent of change – and I am particularly glad to see that Azerbaijan’s youth is leading by example.

We see so much hope in the inspiring waves of social mobilization by young people here. From classroom education to community engagement to planting trees and caring about animals and nature. Young people are pushing their elders to do what is right.

We count on you to keep doing that – to influence parents, classmates, teachers, neighbors and governments to do more and to do better.

We count on you to speak even louder over the next months and years and make the best use of social media to ensure that your messages are amplified and heard across communities.

Only through collective efforts can we improve the health of our planet and ensure a greener and more sustainable future for all.

UNDP remains committed to support you in every step of the way.

Thank you very much for listening. 

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