Twenty-three Youth Ambassadors from countries connected to the Atlantic Ocean participated in a Summer School held at the Marine Institute, Galway from Friday 23rd to Tuesday 27th August 2019. The inaugural Summer School equipped Youth Ambassadors with the knowledge and skills to become actors for change for the Atlantic Ocean.
Youth Ambassadors from Ireland, Iceland, Canada, United States of America, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil Argentina and Cabo Verde took part in the programme developed by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA). Minister Seán Kyne, TD Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands met with Youth Ambassadors on Saturday 24th August.
The Summer School provided the Youth Ambassadors with the opportunity to engage with political, social, economic and scientific leaders to develop their skills to become actors for change in 2019 and beyond. The Youth Ambassadors learnt from experts on how to develop communication campaigns on ocean issues, reach out and engage local communities and experience the challenges of those living by the ocean. The Summer School also introduced the power of science diplomacy and the work of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.
Minister Seán Kyne TD said, “With the Atlantic Ocean facing significant challenges posed by climate change and marine pollution, due to plastics in particular, the health of our ocean relies on the voices of the next generation to continue the current momentum for change. I welcome our Youth Ambassadors to Galway, and congratulate them for taking part in this initiative. This Summer School will encourage our young ambassadors to raise awareness of the crucial value of our oceans in their own communities and contribute to the global momentum for change.”
Ireland’s first All Atlantic Youth Ambassadors are Eimear Manning and John Armstrong, who were selected by the National Youth Council of Ireland on behalf of the Marine Institute. Eimear completed a Masters in Marine Sustainability, and is currently working in environmental education, presenting workshops nationwide on marine sustainability, plastic pollution and water consumption. John Armstrong completed a degree in Ecology and works as an Educational Assistant at Fota Wildlife Park and volunteers with the Nature Network.
Dr Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Institute said, “To ensure a healthy ocean for us now and for future generations, we all need to be better informed about how the ocean affects us and how we affect the ocean. This Summer School will equip our All-Atlantic Youth Ambassadors with the skills to become ocean leaders and marine champions, inspire them to work together and strive for a protected, nurtured and sustainably harnessed ocean.” The Summer School included presentations from Fionn Ferreira, winner of the Google Science Fair 2018-2019, who developed a method for extracting microplastics from water. Writer and reporter Lorna Siggins shared her considerable experience in journalism, particularly on marine issues and provided valuable feedback to the Youth Ambassadors. Máire Geoghegan Quinn, former European Commissioner for DG Research, Innovation & Science, shared her experience and wisdom on how science diplomacy influences policy.
Dr Margaret Rae, Director of Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination and Support Action (AORA-CSA) said that the Summer School will help young people strengthen their voices and skillsets for the challenges facing us today in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We are at a crossroads, and we know we must change our behaviour. With the assistance of the National Youth Council of Ireland, we have developed an intense training programme focusing on advocacy, activism and amplifying messages to positively influence communities and our collective behaviour. Thanks to all the presenters for contributing to this programme and creating an exemplary Youth Ambassador boot camp,” Dr Rae said.
After completing the Summer School, the Youth Ambassadors were assigned a project partner and will develop campaigns and actions to address the sustainability challenges faced by the Atlantic Ocean, and pitch their achievements at the All Atlantic Forum in 2020.
The Summer School was developed by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination & Support Action led by the Marine Institute with the assistance of the National Youth Council of Ireland. The All-Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassador Programme has been developed under the framework of the Galway and Belém Statements on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation to promote All-Atlantic research and innovation cooperation.
The Summer School included contributions from the National University of Ireland Galway, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Enterprise Ireland, Camden Education Trust, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ireland, Global Ireland Initiative, Irish Coast Guard, Leave No Trace Ireland, Met Éireann, National Youth Council of Ireland, The Irish Times, Saildrone, Saoirse McHugh - Green Party, Western Development Commission and YMCA Ireland.