Diary from Sendai: Working for real change

Chris de Bono, UNICEF’s Regional Chief of Communication in East Asia and Pacific, is in Japan for the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. He took part in the youth forum to hear about young people’s experiences and views. 

Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne, who is half Sri Lankan and half Indian, first became interested in disaster risk reduction in 2004, when she lost Sri Lankan family members as a result of the Indian Ocean Tsunami.  She learned that the removal of Mangrove swamps, which had once provided natural protection for communities close to the sea, had greatly increased people’s exposure to the dangers of extreme weather events and began to promote Mangrove replanting.

Eleven years later, Anoka, who has now helped replant 40,000 mangroves, is an environmental lawyer, a youth activist on environmental, sustainable development and entrepreneurial issues, and a facilitator at the Children and Youth Forum in Sendai running in parallel to the 3rd World Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Anoka explained that she is here to see concrete plans that will lead to action on reducing the risk posed by natural hazards. “I am an environmental lawyer,” she explained, “so I need to see things written in policy and leading to action.”

Anoka hopes the delegations at the Summit will see the importance of youth involvement in solutions. She wants to see “young people involved, because that will mean there will be real change.”

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