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Dubai: Two hundred students from schools across the UAE, including Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah, attended the Green Hope Ecoconference titled, “The Road to Sustainability” on April 25.

The conference was inaugurated by Reem Al Thadawi, Communications Director of Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF). She praised the students for their courage in demanding the conservation of the environment.

Hosted by the Amled School, Dubai, Green Hope, a youth sustainability organisation, focused on the status of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and their impending integration into the Sustainable Development Goals. The discussions highlighted the challenges faced by each region and country in the world. Today’s youth, the conference stressed, need to come up with solutions on their own rather wait to be told what to do.

Dr Jane Goodall, internationally renowned anthropologist, sent a special video message conference attendees. She exhorted them to work tirelessly to achieve their dream of a sustainable future. Her greatest hope for the future, she said, stemmed from the energy, commitment and persistence of young people to drive change.

Dr Tiju Thomas, Consul (Education), from the Consulate General of India, Dubai, was guest of honour at the event.

A significant focus of the conference was on tree planting, which is at the core of every Green Hope conference. Two hundred jatropha saplings were planted by the attendees, sending out a green statement and taking a step towards a zero-carbon future.

Today’s world has 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10-24, and they are central to development efforts across the globe, the conference heard. Close to 90 per cent of the world’s youth live in developing countries, where they often make up the largest proportion of the population. The speakers said there was need to have the passion to drive change and take responsibility for being a part of the sustainable development dialogue.

The conference held sessions such as an enviro-quiz and enviro-dress-up, where groups created outfits from recyclables. It hosted a debate and a panel discussion where speakers from the attending schools displayed their oratory skills in demanding a sustainable future for the world.

Green Hope believes that every child has a right to go to school and this message was reinforced at the conference where the participants signed a petition to this effect.

The event ended with an overwhelming consensus among the young people that they need to shape their own destiny — since it is their future at stake. Kehkashan Basu, Founder President of Green Hope, said: “We were overwhelmed by the response. This has vindicated our belief that young people are keen to make a difference and we intend providing similar platforms of engagement in the future.”