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Africa Wins Big: World Bank Connects 4 Climate, Right Here! Right Now!

They rocked the house and rock the house they did! One by one, people began rising from their seats in the World Bank atrium, holding up their hands, clapping to the beat and then singing (or dancing) along with the performers —at the tops of their lungs.  Adults, youth (teenagers), children, the millennials, the middle-aged and elderly had the floor vibrating in rhythmic excitation.

On Friday, March 1, 2013, the World Bank, in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Environment, the Global Environment Facility (“the GEF”), and in collaboration with more than 150 knowledge partners, honored and awarded youth from 14 countries at their recently launched Connect4Climate (C4C) event in Washington, D.C.

Organized and produced by Lucia Grenna, the C4C program director and veteran World Bank employee who nurtured the project from its nascent stages, and hosted by John Raatz, the Master of Ceremonies along with MTV’s Izzy Lawrence, C4C got the word out through music and creative dance skits that created excitement, energy and participation. The strategy? Using music and artists of every medium to celebrate youth engagement in combating the effects of climate change, as “intellectual arguments” seemingly fall on deaf ears or, are simply not enough to effectively communicate the truth of what the world is really facing.  As a result of climate change, it’s become a whole different game and it is imperative for us all to connect, move in unison and make waves like a school of fish.

Makhtar Diop, from Senegal and Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa region, spoke briefly of what for several years, is being experienced in his home region, the Sahel. “For us,” he said, “a change of 2 degree doesn’t mean something we want to address in conferences. It means less water for us, it means drought in our area. When my friends from Mali are facing hardship…when in the western part of Kenya, in Nyanza, you see flooding and mud slides, it is because of climate change…it is something we are living everyday.”

Diop also acknowledged the current growth happening on the continent of Africa and how Africans are “doing things so right.” In terms of climate change, we don’t want to set ourselves back 10 years. “We can’t afford it,” he said. Africa can’t afford it and the world can’t afford it. He expressed delight and honors to see a coalition growing across the world and believes that without the support of not just the youth and civil society, but of all artists in the world, change is possible. Diop offered the example of the many artists in Africa who have successfully shown the ability to change things like HIV/Aids. “Their role has been tremendous.” They all stand as voices of hope.

Right Here Right NowWorld Bank Group President, Jim Young Kim, heartily applauded the winners, encouraging youth around the globe to take a more active role in combating the climate change. “We’ve got to connect in a very different way now,” said Kim. “Connect4Climate is important because we have to take this struggle to a different level. We have been talking about the numbers…we have said all of the numbers again, and again, and again. But what we have failed to do yet is actually connect.”  Kim brought it home, stating that the issue of climate change has now become a “very personal” one. As the father of two sons, ages twelve and three, he noted that if nothing is done to combat climate change, by the time his three year old reaches his own age, extreme weather events, struggles over food and access to water could be so rampant and commonplace (globally), he can just imagine his son living in that time and saying every day: “My father was the president of The World Bank. What did he do when he knew? When he knew that this was going to happen?”

The Italian Minister for the Environment, Corrado Clini, to great applause, briefly addressed the audience, encouraging all to support the project and help create a global community toward helping the planet recover from the changes occurring around us. “It’s fundamentally about family values and the world we’re leaving to our children, but this is the world we are living in right now.”

Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network Vice President, offered a chilling thought. Namely, that helping to exacerbate the effects of climate change won’t be possible without “all of us.” We have to ask ourselves “what am I prepared to do?”

Among the winners for the competition, Africa scored big in nearly all categories and across several countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Morocco, Somalia and South Sudan.

In the Agriculture category for 13-17 year olds, Josephine Nakanwagi won 3rd place for “Soil Erosion #1”.  Under Jobs and the Green Economy, Jason Hanslo, South Africa (13-17 year olds), won 2nd place for “Adding Sunshine to the Sand” and Ngalim Njaiwo, Cameroon, took 2nd place for “Talent + Environment = Employment” in the 18-35 age grouping. Joana Simões Piedade, Mozambique, won 1st place in the 18-35 year old category for “A Day at the Office”. She also won 3rd place, Namibia, in the Water category (18-35 age group) for “Drinking Problem”.

Under the “Cities” category, Christena Dowsett, South Sudan, took 3rd place in the 18-35 age group for “Cities 01”. Coming in 2nd place in the Energy category for ages 18-35 was Evanne Nowack, Uganda, for “Daring to Invest”. Patience Moyo, Malawi, won 1st place among the 13-17 year olds for “What Policy Makers Should Know About Energy” and Nancy Saili, Zambia, won second place in the 18-35 year olds category for “Death of our Zambian Forests” under the Forests category. The Gender category produced three winners in the 18-35 category, 1st place went to Adil Moumane, Morocco, for “Suffering of Women”, Anab Garad, Somalia, was the 2nd place winner for “A Long Walk”, and Maash Sheik Hussein, Kenya, won 3rd place for “Wajir County”. Ray Blount, also from Kenya, took 1st place in the Health category (ages 18-35) for “Dumping Site”. This same category saw Christena Dowsett, South Sudan win again. This time in 2nd place for “Health 01” and Violet Moyo, Malawi, won 3rd place for “Infested Environment.” In the Music Videos category, Idamiebi llamina-Eremie, Nigeria, won 3rd place for “We Be”.

“Not Afraid”, a music video by Kenya based artists TS1, won 1st place in the global Voices4Climate competition and was performed live in the World Bank’s atrium to a crowd of no less than 400 attendees. TS1’s feat of an Eminem song used music more than creatively to address not only climate change but also the plight of the human race, if we don’t pay attention. We may all live in different corners, as the song says, “but in denial we fall.” This song…these kids…ROCKED the World Bank atrium and stairs! It’s a very cleverly worded and powerful song that resonates with you and one that you likely won’t be able to stop listening (bobbing to) and singing, again and again. Special guest and award-winning Malian musician, Rokia Traore, also blazed the stage with her soothing sounds. The evening’s end found attendees dancing on the atrium floor, the stairs, everywhere really, singing the words, “I’m not afraid, to take a stand.”

TS1’s song, along with the other artists, can be found on the CD “Rhythms Del Mundo-Africa” which also includes tracks by Beyoncé, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Mumford & Sons, and many more. All attendees were given a complimentary copy. To view the video click on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI8KiVrIOvs or visit YouTube.com and type: Rhythms Del Mundo Africa feat Eminem & TS1 Not Afraid in the search window.

C4C’s goal is to create a participatory, open knowledge platform that encourages the global community to join the climate change ‘conversation.’ They hope to encourage action, drive advocacy, operational support, research, and capacity building on the local level. C4C is judiciously engaging the world through social media and the web, amplifying the voices of artists and local stakeholders with stories to tell about climate change and inviting youth and all us to do so as well.

While Connect4Climate has already produced a number of events and competitions, the ball is still rolling. Their next globe trotting competition –iChange- challenges students between the ages of 18-35 to create a “sharp” 30-second video message about climate change, telling a story that will heighten awareness and which will incite action and inspire change. If as the TS1 tells us “we’re not afraid to take a stand,” in combating the effects of climate change, the possibilities are limitless and certainly better than the alternative.

Learn more about Connect4Climate and the iChange competition, as well as other events and initiatives underway on their blog at http://connect4climate.org/blog and/or connect with C4C on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The entire event can be viewed online at https://www.connect4climate.org/.