The YOUNGO constituency is made up of the many different youth groups and networks from all over the world that travel to the UN climate change negotiations, and Cancun was no exception. Hundreds of knowledgeable and dedicated young people gathered in Mexico – where delegates were negotiating ways of working towards living in a sustainable, fair and ecologically aware society.
In 2008 I went to the UN negotiations for the first time, and it was a daunting experience. It was busy, people seemed to speak a totally different ‘UN language’ full of acronyms, and I felt overwhelmed by the task that all those countries faced: agreeing to what seemed like a million words in a document. And not just any words. Words like ‘mitigating the effects of climate change’ and ‘adapting to the changes countries will experience’. This can be a difficult thing for a lot of countries to do because they have to think about what is best for their own countries, as well as what is best for the planet on the whole, and often these two things clash. But it is the role of the delegates and negotiators to find common ground and reach agreement on the solutions that will benefit not only themselves, but the rest of the world.
For the youth, however, finding common ground is not so difficult. For the youth, reaching an agreement about the things that they think are important does not follow a long and arduous process of writing and then rewriting text. This is because there is one thing they all share no matter which country they are from or which god(s) they believe in, there is one thing that unites them beyond intricacies of policy and legal jargon – and that is their future.
The future to a young person is very real and something that they take very seriously, which is why they go and meet with the people who are deciding what that future will look like. For the YOUNGO a goal of the Cancun talks was to try and strengthen a part of the text that is about the ways in which young people can participate in decision-making in their own countries. The particular part of the text is ‘Article 6′ and it relates to ‘education, training and public awareness’ on environmental issues, with specific reference made to ‘public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses.‘
As part of a review of this the YOUNGO worked with country delegates to strengthen Article 6. This was a carefully planned, youthful and exciting process that the youth delegates worked on and to excellent effect, because by the end of the conference agreement had been reached by the Parties to ‘enhance’ the implementation of Article 6. In particular “ To foster the participation of women, youth, indigenous peoples, civil society groups and relevant stakeholders in decision-making on climate change at the national level and their attendance at intergovernmental meetings.”
This is a great recognition of the importance of involving youth in the decision-making process and the UK is a leading country on this, because it has already been running the Youth Advisory Panel . The Youth Panel is an excellent example of how Article 6 can be implemented at the National Level and we are now working with other youth groups from around the world to set up similar programmes in their countries. This is an excellent example of how an international agreement can lead to effective and meaningful action at the national level, and an excellent example of how young people have worked hard with their decision-makers to find ways in which they can collaborate to safeguard the future for generations to come.