Child peace prize winner warns Davos elite 'forgetting' huge global issue

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Mohamad al Jounde, winner of the 2017 International Children's Peace Prize, at the 2019 ceremony in The Hague last November. Photo: Nacho Calonge/Getty Images

A Syrian teenager has warned global leaders are “forgetting” the struggles of refugees as climate change dominates debate at Davos.

Mohamad Al Jounde, winner of the 2017 International Children’s Peace Prize, also said refugees needed education to understand and act on climate change themselves.

Al Jounde, who won the awar for launching a school as a 12-year-old in a refugee camp in Lebanon, said climate change was “crucial” but not the only issue for world leaders.

The state of the climate has received top billing at the World Economic Forum (WEF’s) annual summit of business, government and civil society leaders at Davos, Switzerland.

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Some critics see the gathering in the Alps ski resort as a talking shop and a symbol of global capitalism, but organisers say it allows discussion and collaboration among leaders.

Al Jounde, now 19, appeared on a panel about migration at the summit on Wednesday, telling his own story.

He said he had been forced to flee Syria with his mum after she received death threats for participating in the 2011 protests.

He volunteered with other Syrian children in a Lebanese camp before setting up his own school, Gharsah.

He said it now educates more than 700 students every six months, allowing them to move into formal schooling rather than child labour.

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He told leaders at the debate: “Considering all the emphasis on climate change from business to government, people in a sense are forgetting struggles that refugees face. Like finding education, like finding work.

“Don’t get distracted—yes, climate change is important, but don’t forget that other sectors still need investment, big investment as well, in order for us to solve climate change.

“We can’t demand refugees care about climate change as they have to receive education first. If we can’t lift them up to a certain socio-economic level so they can start caring about climate change, we can’t solve it. Everything’s interconnected.”

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