Greenpeace Kids for Forests march on international summit

Children urge governments to preserve ancient forests

Feature story - 17 April, 2002
One thousand "Kids for Forests" marched through the Hague today to call for ancient forest protection.

One thousand Kids for Forests march in the Hague today.

The children, representing 19 countries, carried colourful banners of their artwork, sang songs and chanted "save the forests, save our future" as they marched to present their demands to delegates of the Ancient Forest Summit today.

Most of the children arrived yesterday in the Hague and spent the day preparing for the demonstration, making banners, preparing speeches, and painting faces. When the thousand kids arrived in ten buses in the harbour this morning where a Greenpeace ship is docked, it was a sight for even the most well traveled sailors.

A symbolic Noah's Ark filled with colourful animals made by the children accompanied the demonstration. A percussion group kept the beat as the children sang songs from the ancient forest and danced through the city.

The children made their way through the Hague escorted by police on horses and motorbikes. Many people came out of their homes and shops to watch the kids pass and cheer them on.

Although the children were not allowed on the conference grounds, many ministers and delegates came out to greet the them.

They delivered more than 240,000 signatures to the Summit's president, Geke Faber, from children all over the world pleading for the protection of ancient forests.

Children from the Netherlands, Chile, Belgium, Cameroon, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain and the UK read their demands in their native tongues to Faber, and the environment ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Columbia, Ethiopia, New Zealand, the UK and the US, among others.

Caroline Ah-Yon, 17, from Richmond, Canada said, "It's a shame that only money counts for many of our ministers. What will happen to all the people, to all the animals? Inside the conference centre the adults are deciding about our future and we are not even allowed on the premises."

Over the past few months the Kids for Forests have shown their communities how to change words into action. Many converted their classrooms and schools into ancient forest friendly facilities, banning wood and paper products stemming from ancient forest destruction.

They also created an international art gallery and addressed environment ministers in their countries.

Camila Velazquez Yepi, 14, from Osorno, Chile said, "We don't want the ministers to just talk, we've heard all their promises back home. Now we are here to see that they keep their promises so that there will be forests in our future."

The signatures presented to Faber included those from more than 230 people around the world who are publicly known and highly respected. These "Ancient Forest Guardians" include Sam Neill, Prince Sadruddin Aga Kahn, Juliet Binoche and author Margaret Atwood.

The Ministerial segment of the Summit begins today and will continue tomorrow. Some countries have already committed to protect the world's last remaining ancient forests, but there is still a lack of decisive, concrete actions by the majority of countries.