On 26 June, a special feature of Peace Boat's 98th Global Voyage oyage officially began: the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Programme. The 98th voyage marks the second run of the programme, whereby Peace Boat brings a group of young people from the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Caribbean onto the ship to educate the other participants about the climate change issues affecting their regions, and to help youth spread their messages to civil society organizations and governments across the world. After the successful launch of the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Programme on the 95th Global Voyage, Peace Boat is proud to host seven new ambassadors, hailing from the nations of Palau, Fiji, Timor-Leste, Mauritius, Singapore, Seychelles and Barbados.
Though the world's major economies, chiefly the United States, are responsible for the majority of carbon emissions and other forms of damage to the environment, they aren't the first to feel the severity of their effects. Climate change is not an abstract issue to residents of the Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassadors' home countries, which already face numerous pressures as a result of it. In 2014, Vunidogoloa became the first village in Fiji forced to relocate entirely due to climate change. Damage to the natural environment is a particularly pressing issue as the economies of many of the participants' home countries rely heavily on their pristine beaches to bring in tourism.
The seven participants in the 98th voyage's Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Programme were all already working towards building a more sustainable future for their regions before they became affiliated with Peace Boat. Genevieve Jiva, from Fiji, has been a member of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) since 2015, and served as a policy officer for the organization in the lead up to COP23. Jake Lasi from Timor-Leste, Frances Benstrong from Seychelles, Sage Belgrave from Barbados, and Eve Isambourg from Mauritius are all currently pursuing university degrees in the sciences or politics with a focus on ocean conservation. Manzel Ngirmeriil, from Palau, currently works to protect the Palau National Marine Sanctuary by serving as a Maritime Officer, and Sherene Tan, from Singapore, works to boost environmental advocacy in the Singapore headquarters of COMO Hotels and Resorts.
The programme kicked off while the ship was still docked in Stockholm, with an onboard event hosted jointly by the Global Challenges Foundation, founded in 2012 by Swedish financial analyst and author Laszlo Szombatfalvy, with the aim of addressing the main global problems and risks that threaten humanity. After the ambassadors introduced themselves and their reasons for having dedicated themselves to fighting climate change and ocean degradation, some of them participated in panel a discussion with Global Challenges Foundation members, including Jens Orback, a Swedish Social Democratic politician who was Minister for Democracy, Metropolitan Affairs, Integration, and Gender Equality in the Ministry of Justice in the Cabinet of Göran Persson (2004-2006).
Since their opening event in Stockholm, the ambassadors continued engaging in discussions on climate change and educating the other Peace Boat participants about the issues their countries face. In addition to discussing serious political issues, they also took time to share aspects of their cultures as well, through presentations on their home states that featured dancing and traditional clothes.