For some years now, young people have been asking with ever stronger determination for larger and more real inclusion in the negotiation process. During the last few conferences, some progress has been made with specific initiatives dedicated precisely to giving girls and boys more space for dialogue and discussion: from the appointment of the climate champion to the establishment of the international youth delegate programme, from the Milanese edition of Youth4climate, in 2021, up to Youth4Capacity, a series of events and activities to strengthen the role of young people in climate action. But what exactly do these initiatives entail?
After the Egyptian presidency at the COP27 had appointed the first Special Youth Envoy, Omnia El Omrani, and had confirmed a pavilion managed and dedicated to young people together with the creation of more structured dialogues between young people and the presidency (which we talked about here), the UAE presidency tries not to lower the bar. True to the COP28, on the trail left by the previous presidency, the UAE appoints the first Youth Climate Champion, Shamma Al Mazrui, with the aim of amplifying the work of youth-focused and managed organizations within the COP process.
By including the outgoing YOUNGO global focal point for the works, the Dubai presidency is also launching the International Youth Climate Delegates Programme, a program that has selected 100 young people from all over the world with the aim of ensuring the participation of less represented groups in the COPs, prioritizing young people from least developed countries, small island developing states, indigenous people and other minority groups around the world. A very positive initiative, which starting from a mechanism for the participation of less represented groups could expand and become a formal model of inclusion of young people at the COP, if institutionalized and extended worldwide to all countries. In this sense, as expected, among the young people selected, few are those from the Global North.
In line with the wishes of the UAE presidency, the inclusion of young people was discussed in Bonn in recent days, where the session on Youth Stocktake was held (we talked about it in this article), a moment of reflection between young people and the Presidency to take stock of the challenges in youth inclusion. A very important moment, never held before, but considered by some participants to be very little effective as “They told us they would listen to us, but we were barely given the time to talk about what we really need.” tweeted one participant at the end of the meeting. I hear that the Mitigation Work Programme, which YOUNGO promoted, was completely excluded from the final agenda on the last day which substantially damages the transformative ambition of the COP28.
Meanwhile, Italy continues to engage with a global movement to support the climate action of young people, through empowerment and resources, with the pursuing of the Youth4Climate initiative, present in Bonn during the Youth4capacity day. This event in 2021 brought 400 young people to discuss together proposals presented at the COP26, 150 last year in New York, this year it will continue with the goals of Youth4Climate: Sparkling Solutions!, to allow a group of young people to receive up to 20,000 USD, mentorship and training courses to implement their innovative ideas. To talk about youth inclusion, we need to consider empowerment through training and education, the implementation of structured, institutionalized representative and long-term processes and resources, as the United Nations policy brief of April 2023 also reminds us. There are many initiatives, steps forward continue to be taken, but the results on the effective inclusion of young people, starting with their participation in the negotiations, are all of them to see.
It’s time to move from theory to practice, and we are confident about it.
Article by Aurora Audino, volunteer of the Italian Climate Network
Cover image: photo by Devin Avery via Unsplash