Monday, May 4, 2015

The 2014 United Nations Climate Summit

Visiting the United Nations headquarters was one of my childhood dreams. This dream came true in 2010 when I participated in Middle Eastern Partnership Initiative (MEPI) program in the USA and had the opportunity to visit the headquarters for the first time. Since then, I promised myself that I would work hard to return not only as a visitor, but even for a better opportunity like a job position. 

At the United Nations Headquarters July 2010

A year prior to my arrival to the United States as a Fulbrighter, I had heard about the UN Climate Summit being held on September 23rd, 2014, but I never thought that I would have the opportunity to participate as attendance was by invitation only. Then, upon my arrival, I heard that at the request of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Change Support Team, the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) issued an open call for nominations of civil society speakers and attendees for the 2014 UN Climate Summit. I was so excited to apply and was an optimist as always. I was one of the 544 nominees who were submitted, and I was nominated amongst 76 semi-finalists. I was so honored to be invited along with 120 country leaders including the U.S. president. 

U.S. President Barack Obama committing to climate action like never before during the Climate Summit at the UN headquarters in NYC

I was so honored to attend this summit and have the opportunity to network with different youth organizations and civil society from around the world. I also was so delighted that I surprisingly was reunited with some of my friends and colleagues who I hadn’t seen for some time.

On September 21st, 2014, the biggest Climate Change march in history was held in the streets of New York City and 162 countries around the world. I was so proud to be a part of it. I joined more than 400,000 people who showed up in the streets of New York to voice the loudest, strongest, clearest call for action on climate change the world has ever seen. There's never been a march for climate justice of that size before. Some notable participants including Ban Ki Moon, Leonardo Di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo, Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Brad Pitt, Evangeline Lilly, Edward Norton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sting, Paul Bettany and the former Vice President Al Gore were there.

The march was intended to positively influence the negotiations taking place during the Climate Summit.

Being in the United States at the time of the summit was a priceless gift from my Fulbright program. Fulbright gave me this unique opportunity to make this happen and I am eagerly waiting for what this wonderful experience still has for me. 

Selma Chirouf is an Algerian Fulbrighter who is pursuing a Master’s in Organizational Leadership at Manhattan College.

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