I would like to start off by wishing everyone a happy Young and Future Generations Day! Today is a UN-designated day each year devoted to the recognition of youth participation and stake-holdership in the COP Climate Change Negotiations. Over the past few days I have been working around the clock with a group of amazingly energetic and dedicated youth in the YOUNGO Actions working group on this special and poignant day.
YOUNGO, the official UN constituency of international youth delegations, has facilitated my introduction into the world of international youth climate change mobilization since I have been at COP-16. YOUNGO is an amazing organization of talented youth from across the world whose focus is on capacity building for the youth climate movement and increasing the influence that youth have at the international climate change negotiations. To strengthen our impact, YOUNGO is broken up into working groups each focusing on a different aspect of UN climate change policy, campaigns and actions, and building relationships with media.
Despite my inexperience with the COP process and negotiations at the start of COP-16, I was wholeheartedly welcomed into this constituency and immediately began forming connections with other youth climate activists. Given my personal interest in environmental activism, I was immediately interested in being a part of the YOUNGO Actions working group which supports youth platforms on policy issues with creative demonstrations in public areas of the conference center aiming to influence negotiators. I participated in brainstorming sessions with the group at the Conference of Youth over this past weekend, and on Monday was asked to facilitate the group by the previous facilitator who had not obtained accreditation to COP-16 until the second week.
While I was of course excited that she felt that I was a good candidate for this position, I was initially somewhat intimidated given my lack of significant experience doing actions in the COP setting. However I chose to take on the challenge and began facilitating the group of about 30 youth climate activists from all over the world. Now having been acting as facilitator for 3-4 days (which feels like a few weeks given the amount of time and effort that has gone into planning actions for Young and Future Generations Day), I have come to feel extremely capable of the task. Several times, members of the working group who I admired for their involvement and creative ideas have approached me after meetings actually commending my facilitation skills and my organization of everything needing to be planned and implemented. The first time this happened I was shocked and totally in awe that the way in which I was leading the group was notable and even impressive to the same people for which I felt the same respect. This not only made me elated to continue on in this role, but showed me that I had truly pushed myself and risen to a challenge that I wasn’t aware I was capable of. To me, this in and of itself was a huge personal accomplishment and evidence of the skills and experiences I am gaining at COP-16.
Additionally, I can never fail to mention the incredible young individuals with whom I have the privilege to collaborate with and support on a daily basis here at the conference. Getting to work so closely with youth who have different skill sets and experiences but an equally strong motivation to put their all into affecting global climate change has been an incredible and unique learning opportunity. Many of us have become so close in such a short amount of time that I am delighted at the prospect of spending another week and a half with all of them and strengthening our connections that much more.
At this point I must begin preparing hardcore for the busy day of actions, press conferences, and never ending coordination that is involved in facilitating and participating in the YOUNGO Actions working group for Young and Future Generations Day. The adrenaline is kicking in and I am getting pumped up for the potential impact that youth can have by making our voices heard loud and clear on this very day.
Can’t wait to tell you all about how the day goes, and I encourage you to take a moment to ask a youth that you know a little bit about what world issues they are concerned about, and youth: I hope that you will consider taking a moment today to make your own voice heard about whatever something that you feel passionate about.