Creating a shift in partnership: Save the Children and WWF Nepal
Heather Campbell, the Country Director of Save the Children-Nepal, has spent a lot of time interacting with children in the project areas since moving to Nepal in 2021. And in her conversations with children, she found that they want to see a better world.
“Children and young people are the most impacted by climate change. Therefore, it is important to listen, engage, and collaborate with them to address climate crisis,” says Campbell, who is now based in Nepal, one of the most at-risk countries in the world because of climate change.
According to Save the Children International (SCI), around 710 million children worldwide are suffering from the impacts of climate change. And a child born in 2020 is prone to suffer 2-7 times more.
Sitting in her office in Kathmandu, one the fastest growing cities in South Asia, Campbell explains how she has always been amazed at how children are already connected with nature and the environment. And how the work her organizations does has so much value because of the connection with children and the changes they experience in the world around them.
“Where we are based-- the great natural beauty, and places that are at great risk of climate change, adds extra depth and dimension to our programming,” says Heather, whose role is to lead SCI’s work in Nepal, in collaboration with different government agencies and NGOs and other stakeholders, one of them being the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“I have so much respect for WWF and I also contribute 50 US $ to it because I believe in its vision of bringing people and nature in harmony,” says Campbell, who has been donating a couple of dollars to WWF every month since she fell in love with the idea of conservation.
And in March 2021, Campbell's connection to WWF just took on a whole new meaning as she represented her organization in Nepal, at the signing of the MOU between SCI and WWF to work together, marking a groundbreaking partnership that brings children and conservation together.The partnership between the two organizations was extended by another five years globally in December 2021.
“We hope to act as a conduit to ensure children’s call for a better tomorrow is heard at the policy and decision making levels,” says Campbell, who terms the partnership, “a unique opportunity”.
“Two very old organizations that have done incredible work-- we have worked separately in the international development business and have seen commitment from the bottom to work together and bring our organizations together.”
In the first phase of the partnership between the two organizations in Nepal, the pilot of the Shift for Our Planet project was implemented with the support of youth. Passionate youth groups were selected through a call to bring them together at a workshop to identify climate related issues in their local areas and to initiate campaigns around it.
“I really want to see a level of understanding being strengthened in city-based youth, harnessing youth energy towards a direction where they understand the source,” says Dr. Ghana S Gurung, the Country Director of WWF-Nepal.
Gurung grew up in the central mountains of Nepal experiencing a childhood that was woven into adapting to the laws as well as changes in the environment around him. Even as he sits in his office in the capital city Kathmandu, surrounded by an array of pots of indoor plants, Gurung is constantly drawing references from his childhood and reminiscing life in the mountains.
“The number of species we have lost and the rivers that have been poisoned, it is all evident of the exploitation of resources. And that is why we need to inculcate an understanding among the youth,” says Gurung, who says that to work with youth is also to create hope: “Once you create hope, you immediately generate energy.”
He points out that the most distinct angle in partnering with SCI, is connecting to youth, a group that understand their role and are willing to act. Gurung says that the partnership being initiated by the two organizations is an organic extension of the work that is already being done by them separately.
“The essence of partnership is to deliver something much bigger than your own mission which is only possible when you work together,” says Gurung. “Each institution has its primary mandate. When you form partnerships, you can bring complementary capabilities together, so that you can learn from one another’s strength and deliver in an integrated way. We call it: together possible.”
WWF and SCI have entered a pact to work together on environment and climate issues with local communities, children and youth, many of whom are within their networks like Eco and Child clubs, run by the two organizations across Nepal.
“It is a great combo,” says Umesh Balal Magar, a youth climate activist, who was attending the MOU signing event. “As a student of environment science, I realized that the youth are the most affected by climate change, especially those who are form underprivileged groups,” adds Magar, who also represents the physically challenged youth community from indigenous backgrounds.
Magar and his friends are also engaged in SCI’s Red Alert campaign on climate change.
“We hope that Shift will help create a shift in youth rights and will push for meaningful engagement right from the start,” says Shreya KC, from Nepal Youth for Climate Action (NYCA), one of the organizations participating in the SHIFT pilot project.
Both WWF and SCI come with a robust track record of their work in Nepal. And in the current collaboration, one of the things they hope to do together is to create a momentum among the youth to carry climate work forward. Gurung says: “Once you create hope, you immediately generate energy”.