Activism & Volunteering

Change Ourselves, Not the Climate: Reforming the Youth Constituency at the UNFCCC

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“The first step in addressing any problem is recognising that we have one; there is clearly no shared vision on the future of YOUNGO and its role in the UNFCCC.” Inspired by his previous article for /environment, Luke Kemp has returned with a four-part series looking at reforming the function, form and approach of the youth constituency at the UN climate negotiations before putting forward a proposal for a new constitution for the group.

The first step in addressing any problem is recognising that we have one; there is clearly no shared vision on the future of YOUNGO and its role in the UNFCCC.

YOUNGO appears to have been created without any clearly developed model for its function at negotiations. What role should youth fulfil in the UNFCCC? How can we be as effective as possible? What form for YOUNGO best suits this mission? These are questions that have not been addressed, or even sufficiently discussed amongst youth.

If we are to approach the future with a unified and strong voice it must be based upon a common view for YOUNGO and its future. I hope to help provide such a vision through these articles.

After reading through this series of articles I’m sure that there will be a lot of mixed reactions. Perhaps even outrage and anger fuelled by fundamental disagreement. Critical thought and a sense of common purpose will hopefully be there as well. These articles are meant to act as a think-piece: a stimulus for, and contribution to, a discussion that is much needed within YOUNGO.

It has become a proud tradition of YOUNGO (and youth in general) to chide governments and their negotiators and diplomats on their inability to progress and put in place the necessary structural changes. The best form of leadership is by example. Let us show the UNFCCC how a process and an organisation can reach its potential. Let’s act like the leaders of today, not tomorrow, and reform YOUNGO for the better.


You can read excerpts from Luke’s articles below:

Part 1 - Function

Our - that is, YOUNGO’s - first key challenge is a lack of a clear function at the international climate change negotiations. Our current approach does not suit these vital talks… Our strengths, successes and our rights as a constituency all suggest that we should act primarily as an organisation for youth to influence negotiations. We have the moral (and often intellectual) authority and the access to negotiators needed to seriously and effectively lobby for the interests of youth and the unborn.

Read the full blog here.

Part 2 - Form

While we as youth have done an admirable job so far, we clearly have some inherent internal problems. Problems of memory, coherence and consensus aren’t just holding us back; they are becoming worse with each passing COP… We must face up to the fact we are not imitating more progressive, integrated supranational structures like the EU. Instead, we have organised ourselves to replicate the same intergovernmental process that we criticise for being ineffective, unjust and slow.

Read the full blog here.

Part 3 - Approach

Since becoming an official constituency, YOUNGO has focused upon protest and actions about broad issues at negotiating sessions. I am not calling for a wholesale scrapping of our current tactics. But a change in our approach is vital, and there is already some appetite for this change to occur. Without a new approach, changes in our function and form will remain ineffectual and our opportunities for real progress will go unrealised.

Read the full blog here.

Part 4 - A Draft Constitution

My draft constitution begins with a shared vision along with the principals and definitions that YOUNGO will work within… This is the real legal guts of my proposal and is where actual tangible changes in the way YOUNGO works will stem from. But, this is not just a constitution in a legal sense. This document presents a shared vision for YOUNGO. An ideal and a model that youth can rally to.

Read the full blog here.

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