A group of Taiwanese students who paid their own way to the recent international climate conference in South Africa said they were pleased to have a chance to voice Taiwan’s concerns, even if they had to go hungry.
The youth delegation participated in a parade in Durban as part of the events on the sidelines of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference, which took place from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9.
In the Durban parade, the students carried a giant banner that featured colorful patches put together in the shape of Taiwan. The group said it was aimed at promoting Taiwan’s visibility in the international community.
For several days before they left South Africa, the 11 university and college students lived on biscuits and instant noodles, but they said they did not feel hardship since they had a chance to help carry out Taiwan’s “civilian diplomacy.”
Tsai Chia-yun (蔡佳芸), a senior at Soochow University, said the group members did not have enough time before their departure to apply for a Ministry of Foreign Affairs grant and they had to make do with two boxes of biscuits and specially designed T-shirts donated by two private firms.
The airfare cost NT$43,000 per person. The group stayed at a youth hostel that cost NT$500 per night. It meant that their three-week stay in Durban cost at least NT$70,000 per person.
However, while the trip was expensive — some group members now have to repay loans — the delegation said the rewards could not be measured in monetary terms.
Lee Chih-jung (李芝融), a student at National Tsing Hua University, said young people have little power today, but by participating in an international event like the climate change conference, “we can give Taiwan a better future.”
The group was formed after two students in Taipei founded the Taiwan Youth Coalition on Climate Change in March with the aim of uniting younger people to raise awareness about environmental issues and join international discussions on such matters.
Chang Liang-yi (張良伊) of National Taiwan University (NTU), one of the founders of the coalition, said the biggest challenge for the delegation was Taiwan’s international status. On many occasions, the delegation could not attend international conferences under the name “Taiwan” because it is not recognized by the UN, Chang said.
However, Chang said, this frustrating situation did not stop them from participating in other international organizations and activities. Chang said he felt the group had made some difference.
NTU assistant professor Lin Tzu-lun (林子倫) said Taiwan’s youth have other and better channels through which to voice their concerns for the younger generation.
“What we call global vision is not determined merely by your ability to speak English. More importantly, you must work in tandem with the global trends and find your own status in the international community,” Lin said.