The Republic of Suriname is situated on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America and has the unique distinction of being designated by the World Bank as the most forested country in the world, with almost 93% of its land area being covered by the lush Amazon forests. A Green Hope team, comprising of members from Dubai, Oman and Canada, were invited by the Cabinet of the President of the Republic of Suriname to support the involvement of Surinamese youth in building a roadmap for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The team was also asked to draw international attention to support the position of Suriname as the most forested country in the world.
Hope’s mission was to support Suriname by creating awareness amongst the local youth by using Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a transformative tool to educate and empower them so that they could take local actions in mitigating the impacts of climate change and protect their rich natural heritage for future generations.
After months of preparation and coordination, the Green Hope team flew in from Dubai, Oman, and Canada converging on Paramaribo, Suriname’s picturesque capital city on 3rd July. The delegation had the privilege of accompanying His Excellency Mr. Winston G. Lackin, Presidential Advisor - Republic of Suriname and its Ambassador in charge of Environment on the flight from Amsterdam to Suriname and was given a grand reception at Paramaribo airport on arrival.
The Suriname cabinet ministers with Green Hope. Photo Credits: Green Hope
Over the next 12 days, the Green Hope team undertook one of their most impactful journeys of ESD till date through which they reached out to thousands of civil society stakeholders in Suriname. This journey of change began with a high-level breakfast meeting with the ministers of the Suriname cabinet which included H.E. Winston Lackin, Ambassador in Charge of the Environment/Presidential Advisor, the Hon. Jennifer Geerlings-Simons, Speaker of the House, Melvin Bouva, Vice Speaker of the House, H.E. Lillian Ferrier, Minister of Education, Science and Culture & H.E. Lalinie Gopal, Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs to discuss and roll out the engagement activities for the Green Hope delegation.
Thereafter, the Green Hope team in partnership with the Youth Parliament of Suriname conducted an impactful event titled “Youth Awareness Conference for a Sustainable Suriname” which was attended by over 350 youth, 15 to 18 years old, from across schools in the country. The objective was to spread awareness about Suriname’s unique position as the only country in the world with 93% forest cover and the important role of the country’s children and youth in taking care of their environment for future generations.
"Maroon" children planted trees in one of Hope's actions in Suriname. Photo Credits: Green Hope
Over the next two days, Green Hope conducted two more “Environment Academies” each of which was attended by over 300 children in the age group of 8 to 15 years. Green Hope believes in using creative modes of communication to convey the themes of sustainable development and these workshops were titled “Creative Art & Music Workshop for a Sustainable Suriname.” Sustainability is a difficult concept for children to understand and therefore Green Hope uses art, music, dance, drama, and sport to engage and educate young children creatively. The main vehicles of communication at these workshops were art and music through which the participants expressed their solutions and ideas for implementing the 17 sustainable development goals for their country. The outputs were truly amazing and showed the importance of harnessing the passion and creativity of young people in driving change.
Green Hope believes that engaging neglected and marginalized sections of civil society holds the key to the realization of the United Nations mandate of “leave no one behind” and focusses its efforts to reaching out and empowering them. The team visited an orphanage, home to mainly girls some as young as five years. The team conducted an environmental workshop for them, spreading awareness about the impacts of climate change and adopting sustainable lifestyles. The enthusiasm of the children was truly heartening, and they pledged to stop using plastic and keep their surroundings clean and recycle waste thereby vindicating Green Hope’s belief that sustainable development is a “bottom-up” process and the goals can be achieved only if every member of civil society, especially those who are marginalized are engaged.
A workshop with "Maroon" tribe school. Photo Credits: Green Hope
Thereafter, the Green Hope team conducted a similar workshop for marginalized children belonging to the indigenous “Maroon” tribes of the Amazon. The Green Hope team also traveled into the Amazon rainforest and engaged with children of the local tribes, educating them about the importance of not taking their forests for granted and to adopt simple, sustainable concepts of recycling, waste reduction, tree planting and avoid plastic usage. Green Hope members also planted Moringa and Neem trees with Mr. Winston G. Lackin, Presidential Advisor - Republic of Suriname and its Ambassador in charge of Environment and the students of the children.
Climate change has an extraordinary impact on Suriname's vast mangrove ecosystem. Photo Credits: Green Hope
Mangrove conservation and saving endangered sea turtles have been Green Hope’s focus areas for several years and was one of their areas during this trip as well. Suriname has a vast mangrove ecosystem which too is affected by the impacts of climate change and urban pollution, and then Green Hope spent a day at the mangrove rehabilitation project team at Weg Near Zee, led by eminent mangrove conservation expert Professor Sieuwnath Naipal. Green Hope members planted scores of mangroves as a part of the conservation process. In coordination with the “Green Heritage Fund Suriname,” they conducted a beach cleanup in Braamspunt and thereafter engaged with local conservation experts working on sea turtle conservation.
The team also planted a Greenheart tree with the H.E. Lalinie Gopal, Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs and sealed the partnership with Suriname to mitigate climate change.
The Green Hope team also undertook a field trip to a sanctuary managed by Green Heritage Fund in the Amazon rainforest and learned about the inspiration conservation efforts to save endangered species such as sloths and river dolphins.
The Green Hope team concluded its visit by presenting an outcome document to the H.E. Winston Lackin, Ambassador in Charge of the Environment/Presidential Advisor. It also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Youth Parliament to establish a Green Hope chapter in Suriname to implement the outcome document and create an international partnership which would work to conserve Suriname’s rich natural biodiversity.
Climate change is the harshest reality of our times, and it is regrettable that some people still shrug it off as a myth. On the other hand, this visit to Suriname was an eye-opener on how a small nation was combining economic progress with natural conservation efforts to protect its forest cover. Green Hope was indeed privileged that they were chosen as ambassadors to engage the local youth in conveying the importance of protecting their rich biodiversity for generations to come. Green Hope will now work to share Suriname’s conservation efforts globally and urge other nations to pledge to increase their forest cover.