June 7th, 2019
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement have been presented with the 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International.
The award, considered to be the human rights organization’s highest honour, celebrates people who have shown “unique leadership and courage” in standing up for human rights, says Secretary General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo.
“I can think of no better recipients this year than Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future climate strike movement,” Ms Naidoo added.
The Ambassador of Conscience Award was founded in 2002, and previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Harry Belafonte, Ai Weiwei, and the indigenous rights movement in Canada.
Thunberg started a global movement in August 2018 by holding a school strike outside the Swedish Parliament, demanding greater action from her government on tackling climate change.
Since then, weekly school strikes have been held around the world, including before the Dáil, and two days of international coordinated action have taken place on 15 March and on 24 May. It is estimated that over a million young people globally took part in each demonstration.
The day before the first global strike, Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. “This is not my award, this is everyone’s award,” Thunberg said of Amnesty’s recognition.
“Human rights and the climate crisis go hand in hand. We can’t solve one without solving the other. Climate change means people won’t be able to grow food, their homes will come under threat and their health will be compromised,” she added.
“Governments have a duty to protect us, so why are they doing nothing to stop climate change from devastating our lives?”
The determination of the school strike movement has left Amnesty International Ireland “humbled and inspired”, according to their Executive Director Colm O’Gorman.
“Young people are often told they are the leaders of tomorrow. I am so glad that Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future activists ignored that message,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“If they wait until tomorrow, there will be no future for any of us. They have proved that they are already leaders, and now it’s time for adults to follow their lead,” he added.
In Ireland, thousands of students gathered before Leinster House in Dublin in March urging the government to adopt immediate and effective climate policy. Last month, thousands mobilised once more across the country to reiterate their concerns.
The next day of international strikes is set to take place on 20 September, in anticipation of the United Nation Climate Action Summit in New York, and young organizers have called on adults to join them.