For their role in sparking a global wave of marches, civil disobedience, and weekly school strikes aimed at pressuring the world's political leaders to act on the climate crisis, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and the youth-led movement she inspired were honored Friday with Amnesty International's top human rights award.
“It is a huge honor to receive Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award on behalf of Fridays for Future,” Thunberg said in a statement. “This is not my award, this is everyone's award. It is amazing to see the recognition we are getting and know that we are fighting for something that is having an impact.”
“To act on your conscience means that you fight for what you think is right. I think all those who are part of this movement are doing that.”
The Fridays for Future movement has its origins in Thunberg's lonely sit-down strike outside of the Swedish parliament building last August when she skipped school to protest lawmakers' inaction in the face of the global climate emergency.
Since then, Thunberg's determined and tireless activism has galvanized millions of young people around the world to walk out of class, take to the streets, and demand a rapid transition away from planet-destroying fossil fuels.
“To act on your conscience means that you fight for what you think is right,” Thunberg said Friday. “I think all those who are part of this movement are doing that because we have a duty to try and improve the world. The blatant injustice we all need to fight against is that people in the global south are the ones who are and will be most affected by climate change while they are the least responsible for causing it.”
Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement that the organization is “humbled and inspired by the determination with which youth activists across the world are challenging us all to confront the realities of the climate crisis.”
“Every young person taking part in Fridays for Future embodies what it means to act on your conscience,” said Naidoo. “They remind us that we are more powerful than we know and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate catastrophe.”
As Common Dreamsreported, nearly two million young people from 125 countries took part in Friday climate marches on May 24, and the global movement is expected to continue to grow.
“The youth activists behind Fridays for Future are now calling on adults to join them,” Amnesty said in a statement. “On Friday 20 September, ahead of the United Nation Climate Action Summit in New York, activists will commence a week of climate action with a worldwide strike for the climate. Amnesty International supports the call for all adults who are able to join the strike and show solidarity.”
Kananura Irene—a Fridays for Future activist from Kampala, Uganda—said youth climate leaders “are really determined to finish what we have started because our futures are on the line.”