To make the most of the opportunities created by having MENA as the site of two successive COP meetings, global technology company SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) and ChangemakerXchange have been bringing together the region's leading young changemakers to build their individual and organizational capacity and collaborate towards a more resilient region in the face of the growing climate crisis.
Manos Raptopoulos, President of Southern Europe Middle East and Africa at SAP, says that the selection of the UAE as this year's host is testament to the Emirates' commitment to fostering dialogue, sharing expertise, and driving global climate action. Raptopolous points to the importance of the dialogue being inclusive, emphasising the impact of climate change on youth.
Referring to UNICEF's latest Heatwaves report, which reveals that by 2050, more than 2 billion children worldwide will face heightened exposure to increasingly frequent heatwaves, Raptopoulos points out that this dire reality magnifies health vulnerabilities like undernutrition, low birth weight, asthma, and mosquito-borne diseases. An additional report by UNICEF highlights how 90% of the global burden of disease associated with climate change is borne by children under the age of five.
“These statistics paint a bleak picture about the welfare of future generations,” says Raptopoulos.“However, in the face of these challenges, it is heartening to witness the work of organizations like ChangemakerXchange, which is empowering young pioneers in our region and elsewhere to lead in addressing the climate crisis. At COP28, more than 35 of the Changemakers participating are from the Middle East.”
SAP has collaborated with ChangemakerXchange on projects since 2016, including pioneering programs such as the COVID-19 Collective Action Summit and the MENA Ecosystem Builder Program, as well as training regional networks in online facilitation and community building. On a global level, SAP is also a core partner of ChangemakerXchange's Possibilists Alliance, a support ecosystem aligned on a shared understanding of the needs and challenges of young changemakers aiming to create the best possible conditions for them to thrive and to deepen or scale their impact.
Raptopoulos says that in the lead-up to COP28, SAP is committed not only to reducing its own environmental impact but also amplifying the efforts of organizations like ChangemakerXchange and inspiring individuals.
In this regard he points to the success of two young climate champions who hail from Lebanon, Ryme Assaad and Christopher Daccache, who will represent the ChangeMakerXchange initiative at COP28.“Their primary focus on underserved communities, especially in developing countries, underscores the urgency to provide support and assistance to those most affected by the climate crisis,” Raptopoulos says.
BOXOUT ONE: Ryme Assaad: amplifying the voices of young women.
Ryme Assaad, dedicated to amplifying the voices of young women in climate action, recognizes the importance of their unique perspectives in shaping effective climate solutions.“I have always been driven by a desire to contribute to positive change in the world,” says Assaad.
Assaad was spurred to action after the Lebanon Economic Crisis that began in 2019.“This period brought a series of challenges along with it, including severe electricity blackouts lasting up to 23 hours a day and a currency devaluation of over 98%. Inflation soared, averaging 171.2% in 2022, one of the highest rates globally,” she says.
“During this period, I realized the profound significance of renewable energy and circular economy models. Beyond environmental benefits, these approaches proved to be efficient in providing access to clean energy and basic human necessities, even in the most trying times. This revelation strengthened my conviction that such solutions could profoundly impact and create a better world, particularly in times of crisis,” continues Assaad.
In her role as a board member at Sustainable Empowerment for Youth (SEFY) International, Assaad works towards assisting vulnerable communities across the globe. She says one of SEFY's flagship projects, RISE2030, is dedicated to advancing green energy technologies, improving livelihoods in underserved rural areas, and driving change by actively involving youth and women in green entrepreneurship and job creation programs. The project won the 2020 BW global climate action award at COP26 in the UK with UNFCCC.
“Participating in the ChangemakerXchange program has been an inspiring journey and experience for me. I've had the opportunity to meet remarkable women who are deeply involved in the climate movement, and they have served as a source of inspiration. The lessons I've learned through this engagement emphasize the power of collaboration, innovation, and the pivotal role of youth and women in shaping a more sustainable future,” Assaad says.
BOXOUT 2: Christopher Daccache: Designing innovative solutions.
Christopher Daccache, a passionate AI enthusiast, is poised to make significant strides with his unique creations. At 19, he founded 'RECYCLER' in Lebanon, a project specializing in solid waste management, sustainable innovation, agriculture, and environmental education.
Daccache now works on projects that aim to mitigate environmental impact and empower communities to actively participate in the fight against climate change.“Some of the climate projects I'm collaborating on involve finding innovative solutions for water pollution as well as addressing the lack of environmental education in Lebanon,” says Daccache.“One of our latest innovations is a solar-powered machine that extracts waste from rivers. It is the first of its kind in the MENA region, and is automated, internet-connected, and made from upcycled materials.”
Daccacche adds,“We have also developed a sustainable machine that uses AI to identify the different types of waste and sort them automatically, making the process more efficient and accurate. It incorporates an educational component that raises awareness about climate change and pollution, helping to educate people about the importance of responsible waste management.”
ChangemakerXchange has afforded Daccache the opportunity to collaborate with global, like-minded individuals and organizations dedicated to tackling urgent climate challenges.“My experience has reinforced the belief that the youth can be a formidable force for change. Despite my age, I've seen firsthand that dedication, innovation, and a commitment to sustainable practices can make a meaningful impact on our environment and inspire others to join the climate action movement,” he says.
“I see the climate crisis as not just a challenge, but also an opportunity for transformation. It's a chance to rethink our relationship with the planet, transition to cleaner and more equitable systems, and create a future that is not only sustainable but also thriving. My vision is to leave this world better than I found it,” Daccache concludes.
ChangemakerXchange envisions a world where everyone is part of inclusive communities in which people connect deeply and co-create positive action to serve the wellbeing of people and planet. They're on a mission to provide safe, supportive, fun, and empowering spaces for changemakers. They foster profound and lasting connections, nurture wellbeing, and enable peer-learning and meaningful collaborations so that changemakers may create, sustain and scale positive change.
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