An Indian tribal Catholic woman is among seven young climate leaders selected by United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres to advise him on the global climate crisis. Archana Soreng, who hails from Odisha state in eastern India, was chosen on July 27 to advise the UN on accelerating global action to tackle climate change. “More and more people and world leaders are worried about climate change, including our pope. At this juncture recognition and acknowledgement by the UN is a big honor and privilege for me,” Soreng told UCA News. “I come from a Catholic and tribal family where from our childhood we are taught to revere, love and protect the environment, so it will be very helpful for me to be part of this group. It has given me an opportunity to work even harder. “Our forefathers were the protectors of the forest and nature for years through their traditional knowledge and practices, and now it is our time to lead the world in combating the climate crisis.”
Soreng, who comes from the Khadia tribe in Sundergarh, gained an MA in regulatory governance from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She works as a research officer in Vasundhara, Odisha. She has been engaged with youth groups at regional and national levels and is involved in indigenous youth groups to preserve, document and promote the traditional knowledge and practices of their communities. Her articles have been published on national and international youth websites. “Archana’s recognition by the UN will give a morale boost to tribal people, who will be inspired by her work and come up with flying colors,” said Shilpa Ekka, general secretary of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement. Father Nicholas Barla, secretary of the Indian bishops' Commission for Tribal Affairs, told UCA News that "people like Archana give us encouragement that even we can do it, it is even possible for us too.” He added: “She and her family deserved the recognition and acknowledgement because for ages they have been connected with nature and protecting it. It is also a message to the world as well as to the nation that tribals are the true protectors of nature and the environment, although they continue to face displacement and prejudice.” Meanwhile, Guterres said the UN is making an effort to bring more young leaders into decision-making and planning processes. “We have seen young people on the front lines of climate action. We are in a climate emergency. We do not have the luxury of time,” said Guterres while announcing the establishment of the Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, which represents the diverse voices of young people from all regions. “We need urgent action now — to recover better from Covid-19, to confront injustice and inequality and address climate disruption,” he added. The Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change will offer perspectives and solutions on climate change, from science to community mobilization, from entrepreneurship to politics, and from industry to conservation. They were chosen to give frank and fearless advice at a time of growing urgency to hold government and corporate leaders to account on climate action. The UN initiative is also aligned with the UN Youth Strategy launched in September 2018.
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