Samoan climate activist honoured by former U.N. Chief

Samoan climate activist, Brianna Fruean, has been personally praised by former United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General, Tupua Ban Ki-moon, in an introduction to her essay on climate change and COVID-19 published by The Elders this week.

Tupua, who led the U.N. from 2007 until 2016 and was behind the rapid ratification of the Paris Agreement said the world needs to listen to Ms. Fruean, and save countries in the Pacific from the impending climate crisis.

“Brianna, a voice from one of the most climate affected regions in the world, asks us to respond to the challenges of climate change with creative resilience,” he said.

 “She asks us to invest in building a strong global community ready to adapt and respond to the shared threats we face. It is time for the world to listen to Brianna and the young people calling for climate justice."

Ms. Fruean, who has been a climate activist since her early school years, is currently studying at the University of Auckland.

In her essay, she said Tropical Cyclone Harold, which struck down on Fiji and Vanuatu in April is a stark reminder that the climate crisis won’t step aside for the global coronavirus pandemic.

“As our Pacific communities are grappling to face the impacts of this global pandemic, we got hit from behind by Cyclone Harold, a disaster exacerbated by climate change,” she said.

“It was a reminder of the harsh reality that we may be able to cancel concerts, conferences and classes; but we can't as easily cancel the climate crisis.”

Thinking to the day the global lockdowns are slowly lifted, Ms. Fruean said: “We owe it to those families to rebuild a better world for all. When things start back up I hope we leave our homes stronger than ever, ready to make a change.”

Ms. Fruean’s work is featured in ten-week series of intergeneration blog posts called ‘It will take all of us’, launched by The Elders’ Chair Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president. Mr. Ki-moon is the deputy chair.

The global pandemic and the lockdown it has necessitated must be an opportunity to aim for a better world, founded on the “real essentials,” the 22-year-old wrote.

“I hope this time of stillness for some of us can serve as a time to reimagine what a better, cleaner, and more just world could look like, and what we need to change to ensure that we can achieve it.

“The global halt on “business as usual” has made me think deeply about the world we live in and the broken systems within. Systems that have birthed monsters like inequality, injustice and the destruction of our planet. Although there is a lot that is broken in our world, there is also so much that is beautiful.”

The Elders was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 to be a non-government organisation of older, experienced public figures and activists to help tackle the world’s problems. It is currently chaired by and Mr. Ki-moon is a deputy chair. 

“I loved writing this piece and was honored to have Mr. Ban Ki-moon support it. Fa’afetai tele lava to @TheElders for helping me put together some thoughts on the current state of the world,” Ms. Fruean wrote on Twitter.

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