by Vicki Soanes, Secretary General, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO
Vicki Soanes - Secretary General — Image by: New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO

As soon as I read the powerful and moving poems and stories in this publication I thought of the words that greet you on the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO’s website: Bringing the world to Aotearoa and taking Aotearoa to the world.

The Heat is On: Young Writers on the Climate Crisis is the perfect example of how important it is to connect young people from Aotearoa with their peers from around the world. It is a poignant illustration of how we must work together collectively, and globally, to address issues such as climate change, and how by doing this we will help create a more peaceful, healthy and sustainable world.

What also touched me is how much this publication speaks to the essence of our work, and the work of UNESCO globally. I am privileged and proud to work for an organisation driven by values. An organisation that was founded on the understanding that peace can only be achieved through solidarity, sharing of knowledge and collective action.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (now encompassing nearly 300 cities around the world – including four in Aotearoa New Zealand) was created to connect cities across the globe that are working towards a common objective of placing creativity and cultural industry at the heart of their work.

This resource is a beautiful illustration of why UNESCO created the Creative Cities Network. It is also a fabulous way of raising awareness of the Creative Cities Network to a global youth audience, who may not be aware that they live or study in a Creative City and the many opportunities that arise for youth through the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. I congratulate Ōtepoti Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, for exemplifying the best aspirations of the Network.

Youth voice is of great importance to UNESCO and to us at the New Zealand National Commission. Not only do we support events, projects and initiatives that get young people involved in our priority areas, but we also co-ordinate the UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader programme.

Our UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders (which currently consist of 10 young leaders aged between 18 and 25 years) help connect the work of UNESCO to their local communities and networks and enable us to reflect the voice, insight and aspirations of youth in the work we do. This publication is one that will speak volumes to our UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders and I’m sure that the poems and stories told within these pages will be passed through to their communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.

When reading through the beautiful, timely and insightful words of the featured young writers I realised that their words touch almost every aspect of our work, including our current priority areas of Oceans for the Wellbeing of People and the Planet; Empowering Communities for Sustainable Futures; Indigenous Knowledge and Language; and Freedom of Responsible Expression. So, when I then read a poem on climate change which speaks to the change in our oceans and is written in an indigenous tongue it really is a powerful illustration of the interconnectivity of our work in Aotearoa New Zealand and the international work of UNESCO.

These young writers really challenge us to focus on what is important to enable our global communities to have a better, brighter and sustainable future. Reading the poems and stories within this publication is one way that we can listen and learn and educate ourselves and those around us.

I hope that those who read the moving and at times haunting words within this publication take the time not only to digest the powerful words of our youth but also to help further promote their sentiments. So that we can work together within our local communities, within our UNESCO Creative Cities and our future Creative Cities, and most importantly globally, to combat climate change.

Young people are passionate about addressing the challenges that face our world and recognising the importance of swift change in doing so. The rest of us need to listen. And to act.

Vicki Soanes

Secretary General, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

Deepening connections between the people of Aotearoa New Zealand and UNESCO globally through the sharing of ideas and building capability for a sustainable, healthy and more peaceful future.