Queen Elizabeth to honor student for climate change work

Shamir Shehab

A first-year graduate student in the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) will receive an award from Queen Elizabeth II in June, for work in his native Bangladesh to educate young people on climate change.

Shamir Shehab, MPA ’16, is one of 60 exceptional community leaders chosen from across the British Commonwealth to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award, which recognizes young people ages 18-29 who work to support others, raise awareness and inspire change on issues including education, climate change, gender and disability equality, and mental health.

“Shamir set up the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative when he became concerned about the effect of climate change on his country,” a news release from the British High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh, said. “Since 2009, it has trained more than 500 young environmental leaders and set up 30 environmental school clubs. The initiative runs the National Earth Olympiad, which educates students about climate change.”

Established in honor of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme “celebrates the achievements of young people who are taking the lead to transform the lives of others and make a lasting difference in their communities,” the release said. The program also provides grants to support organizations that work with young people in selected Commonwealth countries.

“Shamir has been instrumental in providing climate change education, knowledge and leadership to hundreds of young people in Bangladesh through Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI) that he founded back in 2009,” said barrister Naser Alam, a member of the BYEI Governing Board. “His biggest inspiration to start the BYEI was to create a narrative of solution of the challenges Bangladesh faces today instead of just talking about them.”

Shehab entered the CIPA Master of Public Administration program in 2014, with a concentration in environmental policy. He was recently appointed a CIPA Admissions Ambassador, a role that includes outreach to potential MPA students, sharing his experiences and offering applicants a first-hand look at the program.

“I'd like to dedicate this recognition to my team and to all the energetic young people in Bangladesh who believe, in changing a small part of Bangladesh if not [all of] Bangladesh,” Shehab said. “Their talent, creativity, positivity and strong desire to become a part of the narrative of solution inspire me to do what I do.

“If I can build a small organization like BYEI, there are so many talented young people out there in Bangladesh to make things way better than what we experience in our everyday life. All it requires is courage, commitment and some sacrifices. I believe if we start fighting for what bothers us most, we'll see a much better Bangladesh soon.”

Over the January break, Shehab participated in CIPA’s Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) Program, on a team tasked with developing an outreach and marketing plan and raising awareness for The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEALL) in Bangladesh. Other students on the team said Shehab brought his policy expertise and insider knowledge on the culture and workings of Bangladesh to the project, and served as an interpreter.

TEEAL is an offline database providing access to more than 325 e-journals in agriculture and related biological sciences for universities, colleges, research institutes, government ministries and policymakers in 110 low-income countries with limited or no Internet connectivity.

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Melissa Osgood