Since graduating from River Falls High School in 2012, Lindsay Getschel has gone on to major in political science at Luther College, get her masters in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and intern at the United Nations in the department of peacekeeping operations.
After finishing her internship, Getschel got a job at the Stimson Center, an international security and policy research institute, or "think tank," located in Washington, D.C.
"As an organization, Stimson focuses on a wide range of international security issues, ranging from arms ... to conventional weapon non-proliferation. In my program, I work on environmental security issues, which focuses on resource scarcity, sustainable management of fisheries and how that impacts local level security and economic security, as well as a project on climate security. That is how I got connected to the opportunity at the U.N., through my past work and internship there as well as my current work on climate change, which is focused on security in the Caribbean related to coastal urban climate resiliency," Getschel said. "It is cool that my work and career have culminated in this opportunity. I hope to continue to work on this issue with people across the globe."
Getschel took part in an open debate held by the United Nations Security Council that addressed the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security. The debate took place on Friday, Jan. 25, and was the fourth debate the security council has held on the topic since 2007.
"I think over 70 countries spoke at the debate on that Friday, which was a lot and a long day. But it was a good and very productive meeting," Getschel said. "They invited me to speak at a 'Young Briefer.' The U.N. launched their Youth 2030 strategy in September, which is where they pledged to involve young people in their decision-making, discussions and to share their thinking about issues. I'm not sure that this was part of that, but it was definitely part of their push to involve youths in security issues that aren't just specifically youth peace and security-related."
According to Getschel, this was the first time a young briefer was invited to speak at the security council on the issue of climate change and international security. There were three other presenters/briefers in addition to Getschel at the debate: Rosemary Di Carlo, Under Secretary General, Department for Political Affairs; Achim Steiner, Administrator of the U.N. Development Program; and Prof. Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist of the World Meteorological Organization.
"What I was bringing to this debate was a non-government perspective and a non-representative of a country or an organization. I was there as a young person representing myself and my thoughts on this issue and how it impacts young people around the world, as well as what I see as the security council's role in addressing this," Getschel said.
As part of her remarks, Getschel presented three recommendations to the security council, including:
• The security council adopt a formal resolution recognizing climate change as a threat to international peace and security; and to incorporate language on climate change into the mandates of U.N. peacekeeping missions and special political missions.
• The security council mandate that their missions conduct their deployed missions conduct assessments on how young people, specifically, are impacted by climate change and how it can contribute to the instigation and continuation of conflict.
• The U.N. itself needs to take steps to reduce its carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses footprints in their deployed missions.
"Climate change can exacerbate insecurities in young people, such as lack of food or unemployment, which can cause displacement, all of which young people are particularly vulnerable to. Young people are more vulnerable to being recruited into armed groups or being victims of conflict of displacement," Getschel said. "Currently, only 1 percent of the energy used in the field is generated through renewable energy. The U.N. is a body that has pledged in the past to reduce its emissions and has called on other countries to reduce their emissions, so it would be important for the U.N. itself to take steps to live up to its word."
Getschel spoke for 10 minutes. The U.N. debates aren't a question and answer type of debate, but instead are a series of presentations, with each briefer speaking for about 10 minutes. The U.N. member countries are then given a chance to speak for five to 10 minutes. The debate went from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. that evening, Getschel said.
"It was pretty long since I had to be there the whole day, but it was worth it. The opportunity as a whole was very humbling. As an intern, I wasn't allowed to walk on the floor of the security council, so to be able to walk onto that floor and have a seat at the table was extremely humbling," Getschel said. "To have the opportunity to speak and to share my thoughts with all these countries and their representatives in this forum that has a lot of historic and current importance was an experience that I can't put words to. Cool isn't the right word, since it doesn't have enough gravitas to it, but it was a really cool opportunity."
Taking part in the debate also allowed Getschel the chance to talk about something she is passionate about and has been part of her studies since she was in college.
"To be able to talk in front of these representatives that represent whole countries and organizations about an issue that I feel strongly about, and I know a lot of them feel strongly about, was really an important opportunity to bring that voice of a young person to the table and demand action," Getschel said. "Young people haven't had a seat at the table to talk about this issue before, so that was also an important part of my being part of the debate. Being the first young person to talk about this issue at the security council, I felt like I had to live up to what I'd want someone else to be saying if they were in my place.
"To be able to lend my voice to the debate where other people haven't had the opportunity yet, was incredible. Hopefully I have been able to create a pathway for other young people in the future to continue to be engaged in this debate. I hope that I'll also be engaged in this ongoing conversation and debate."
Video of the debate can be found on the UN WebTV site. Getschel's presentation starts around the 28 minute mark.