Road to COP 21: Are African youth fully represented

Uganda young people below 30 years are 78% of the population (Uganda Population Report 2012) making it the youngest population in the world, elsewhere the scenario may not be that different especially in Africa. Climate change poses adverse effects, where capacity is little to cope also known as adaptation, especially when agricultural and forestry sector the economic back bone of Africa are climate sensitive.  As noted by Christiana Figures the Executive Secretary of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that climate change has created uncertainty about the future and that uncertainty will be left to our children, young people and future generations. She acknowledged young people awareness of the challenges of climate change and taking action. “Work by and for young people is a critical component of raising political ambition to reach a new, universal agreement on climate change.”(Youth in Action on Climate Change: inspirations from around the world, United Nations Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change, 2013) Wondering whether she meant working by and for locally or internationally otherwise the latter would mean effective representation at future COPs.

Young people elsewhere have formed coalitions like the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) taking action in their communities and internationally. One of the UKYCC member personal note: “This year I attended the UN Convention on Climate Change and delivered a 2 minute speech, met amazing European youth, attended a climate justice camp in the German countryside, organized an action in the UN that was featured in a BBC news article, helped mobilize youth for the People’s Climate March, lead the March dressed in a Notting Hill Carnival animal costume, attended an anti-fracking camp, and riled up the Secretary of Energy and Climate Change by being young and pesky.” Africa needs to replicate the above; there are adult climate change networks under climate action network (CAN) which have no clear defined young people wings, which would offer them a platform to take action. Civil society organizations (CSOs) help in organizing stakeholders into one unit and hence produce one voice. Setting up independent young people organizations is being threatened by the new Non Governmental Organization (NGO) bill of 2015 that will make registration difficult and limit their work in Uganda.

The UNFCCC recognize CSOs as observers and their participation has increased from 196 CSOs with 1,056 representatives in 1995 (Berlin) to 681 CSOs with 3,695 representatives in 2013 (Warsaw), 2009 (Copenhagen) recorded the highest representatives of organizations at 13,482. CSOs from Africa are underrepresented with 117 (How many are Youth CSOs???) out of 1361 active organizations registered as observers with the UNFCCC with that; there comes a deviation in the way things are done from global counterparts especially in influencing negotiations. With such numbers if given proportionate representation on the negotiation table a lot can be achieved. The Rio Declaration under articles 4, 6 and 7 of the UNFCCC gives CSOs to be part of international climate negotiations, their participation helps in coming up with issues to be put on the agenda and promote multi stakeholder participation. 

By Kateregga Dennis, BA(ECON), Dip. IEL 


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