Activism & Volunteering

Reforming the youth constituency at the UN climate talks - Part IV : A Draft Constitution

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“An organisation without a purpose and a constitution is like a ship without a rudder.” In the final part of his series on the reform of the youth constituency at the United Nations climate change negotiations, Luke presents a shared vision for YOUNGO that he hopes youth can rally to. He begins with a shared vision and shares ideas for organisational structures and procedures that will bring a change for the better in the way YOUNGO works.

An organisation without a purpose and a constitution is like a ship without a rudder. YOUNGO has been sailing in this manner for some time now, without the compass of a constitution to guide us. In the following article I am going to put forth a draft constitution for YOUNGO, built on the ideas and blueprints that I developed through my series of articles on YOUNGO reform (see here).

Discussions on reforming YOUNGO are not uncommon at COPs. Stifling procedures, inefficiencies and a lack of a shared vision leave many participants feeling frustrated and disillusioned, not just with the COP processes, but with our own. Unfortunately, this dialogue on reform, as happened at COP18, rarely go anywhere once the COP is over. This constitution will provide a concrete platform from which real actions, not just talk, on reform can occur.

My draft constitution begins with a shared vision along with the principals and definitions that YOUNGO will work within. These sections provide the basis for more substantive sections on our organisational structures and procedures. 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.

I: A Shared Vision

Our purpose is to represent the interests of both current youth and future generations within climate change negotiations and to influence the negotiating process in order to produce outcomes that favor these interests. We stand unified in this purpose and will use any approaches that will aid in achieving this mission in the most effective and timely manner.

We are an integrated peak body that will lobby for the interests of youth and the unborn within the UNFCCC. All organisations within YOUNGO pledge to place this common goal before any individual interests.


II: Principals and Definitions

1) We are first and foremost committed to the principle of intergenerational equity.

2) We affirm our commitment to organisational equity and to maintain, to the furthest extent possible, a balance in terms of both gender and developing-developed country participants within YOUNGO inter alia all working groups and the Bottom Lining Team.

3) We remain committed to respecting and working within the rules and regulations set-out by the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC and UNFCCC secretariat.

4) Youth are hereby defined as members of YOUNGO who are under the age of 30.

5) The YOUNGO mailing list referred to within this constitution is hereby defined as

6) All references to “UNFCCC sessions” are hereby defined as a Conference of the Parties, Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, Subsidiary Bodies meeting, or any meeting of UNFCCC affiliated bodies such as the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform or the Green Climate Fund.


III: Organisational Structure

1) The primary decision-making body of YOUNGO is the Youth Council. A special online Youth Council meeting may be created by any working group Coordinator outside of a UNFCCC session. An online Youth Council is bound by the same rules under this section (IV) as a regular Youth Council. An online Youth Council can be held in whatever digital form that the Bottom Lining Group in conjunction with working group coordinators deem necessary.

2) YOUNGO is comprised of a number of semi-autonomous issue-specific working groups. The original permanent working groups are as follows: mitigation and architecture, adaptation, Article 6, financing, women and gender and technology transfer. Issue specific working groups are mandated to cover policy, lobbying and action activities to their relevant issues. If the need to create a new working group arises then working groups may be established in accordance with section IV.8 of this constitution.

3) Each issue specific working group will elect 1-2 coordinators. All issue-specific working groups will seek to have 2 coordinators, however failing in finding two individuals with the capacity and desire to do so, a single coordinator will suffice. The coordinator(s) will have a number of roles:
a) Act as facilitator(s) for group discussions.
b) Act as lead author(s) for submissions and group reports (and will be recognised as such).
c) Provide direction and organisation between COPs, and act as a point of contact for the Bottom Lining Team and new members.

4) Working group coordinators must be youth as defined under II.4 of this constitution.

5) In addition to the issue-specific working groups there shall be three broader function-specific working groups: Policy and lobbying, communications and actions. All of these groups will attempt to act as nodes of expertise for capacity building for YOUNGO working groups and organisations.Moreover these groups shall ensure that the activities appropriate to their field are coordinated across issue-specific working groups. Function-specific working groups may choose not to have coordinators, but are encouraged to adopt coordinators in line with the rules set out under III.3 of this constitution.

6) We hereby create the Bottom Lining Team to act as the secretariat of YOUNGO which will oversee administrative tasks and provide logistical and organizational support for working groups. The Bottom Lining Team will act as the registry for the storage of all working group reports, Youth Council minutes and decisions and other relevant YOUNGO related documentation. The Bottom Lining Team is composed of voluntary members.

7) YOUNGO shall hereby create a Communications Taskforce which will operate as part of the Bottom Lining Team. The membership shall be congruent with the membership of the communications working group. Members of the communications working group are highly encouraged to join the Bottom Lining Team to ensure that their expertise is used effectively by the Communications Taskforce. This group will be entrusted with maintaining and upgrading the YOUNGO website, dispersing information and materials, and overseeing media activities (including capacity building for media activities).

8) YOUNGO shall hereby create a Liaison Taskforce which will operate as part of the Bottom Lining Team. The Liaison Taskforce will serve as a point of contact between YOUNGO and other youth organisations and representatives, including the Major Group of Children and Youth and UNEP TUNZA representatives. The Liaison Taskforce shall oversee coordination and communication activities with these groups.

9) We hereby mandate the Bottom Lining Team through use of the Liaison Taskforce in collaboration with issue and function specific Working Groups to establish a registry of relevant contacts and organisations, including but not limited to; official youth representatives and representative bodies and national youth climate coalitions. This registry will be used for media and lobbying purposes to facilitate coordination of the International Youth Climate Movement and the operations of YOUNGO.

IV: Rules of Procedure

1) Collective decisions within YOUNGO shall be made through the Youth Council, exempting decisions in accordance with IV.6, IV.12 and IV.13 of this constitution. This includes, but is not limited to, the adoption of any official YOUNGO policy points, official YOUNGO actions and changes to this constitution.

2) A quorum of the Youth Council requires the presence of coordinators or coordinator approved representatives from at least two thirds of issue-specific working groups.

3) The YOUNGO mailing list and all working group coordinators be informed of a Youth Council and/or a change in a regularly established time of the Youth council, at least 24 hours priors to the commencement of said meeting.

4) The voting bodies within the Youth Council are issue-specific working groups. Each issue specific working group shall be given a single vote. All issue-specific working groups reserve the right to abstain from a vote.

5) Decisions within the Youth Council shall be made by a two thirds majority vote of those issue-specific working groups present and voting. The only exemption to this process is listed under IV.24 of this constitution.

6) Working groups shall elect their own coordinators via a two-thirds majority voting system. Such a vote will preferably be held at a session of the UNFCCC. Online voting may also be used in extraordinary circumstances such as the retirement of a coordinator in between sessions. An online or sessional vote within a Working Group requires the presence of two thirds of active Working Group members and, unless incapacitated, unreachable for longer than a fortnight or deceased, all Working Group Coordinator(s).

7) Voting and decision-making within any working group shall be made through a two-thirds majority vote of working group’s members present and voting. Members who seek to participate in a working group’s voting procedure must also be involved in its operational activities in an ongoing basis, otherwise working group coordinator(s) may choose to exclude members based upon a lack of engagement. A quorum of a working group requires two thirds of active members to be present.

8) The creation of any new issue or function specific working groups requires the approval of the Youth Council. New working groups shall not infringe upon the mandate or topic of any of the original six working groups without the express permission of the affected working group.

9) All YOUNGO affiliated organisations maintain the right to speak, upon their own request to facilitators, at a Youth Council.

10) Any issues to be discussed at the Youth Council must be sent to the YOUNGO focal points at least 24 hours prior to the Youth Council.

11) All policy points that are to be approved must be sent to the YOUNGO facilitators at least 48 hours prior to the Youth Council. All working group coordinators are required to read these documents prior to the Youth Council. All YOUNGO members are strongly encouraged to read these documents prior to the Youth Council. Policy Points cannot be rejected on the basis of working group members or coordinators having not read them.

12) The adoption of specific text, submissions and lobbying documents, that are consistent with the implementation of approved policy points, will be done at the discretion of the relevant YOUNGO working groups and will not require a Youth Council decision. All official submissions to the UNFCCC shall also be sent through the UNFCCC youth mailing list and deposited with the registry of the Bottom Lining Team.

13) All issue specific working groups possess “Emergency Powers”. Emergency powers can only be employed during the time of the high level segment of a COP or the final two days of a Subsidiary bodies meeting or any other UNFCCC session. Emergency powers enable working groups to undertake actions and decisions without Youth Council approval that would in normal circumstances require it. Workings groups must inform the YOUNGO mailing list of any use of emergency powers as soon as possible. Any use of emergency powers must be reviewed by the Youth Council at the next Youth Council meeting. If an abuse of power has been detected by the process of review, the Spokes Council may choose to remove the working group coordinator(s) from their position. Removal of a coordinator would require an affirmative vote from the Youth Council.

14) All online voting and decision-making of the Youth Council will occur through the YOUNGO mailing list as defined under II.5 of this constitution.

15) Online voting by the Youth Council will be undertaken in the following format:

a) Decisions must take the form of an email with inclusion within the subject line of the phrase: VOTE

b) The message must clearly outline the issue, contain a proposal for implementation and contact information for the individual or team that put together the proposal for decision.

c) The timeline for decision making will be one week for feedback and discussion, followed by 96 hours of decision-making (voting). The feedback and discussion time will be used to discuss the proposal and, if necessary, revise the proposal incorporating different concerns and ideas.

16) Decisions made without a proper quorum are not binding and will be revoked.

17) All decisions made without a proper quorum will be reviewed by the Youth Council who will decide upon any further course of action as under IV.18 of this constitution.

18) Any individual or group actions that violate this constitution, approved policy points, or the shared vision of this text, will be reviewed by the Youth Council. The Youth Council may then take a decision to reprimand such violations. Compliance procedures will be decided upon in an ad-hoc fashion through a vote of the Youth Council.

19) Speeches will be designated to the relevant issue specific working group. Speeches that transcend issue boundaries, such as closing or opening plenary speeches, will be done in a collaborative manner between working groups.

20) Speeches will be written by two speech writers along with an alternative. The alternative will be kept in reserve unless one speech writer is unable to fulfill their duty or the alternative’s input is requested. All YOUNGO members will have up to 96 hours to provide input for the speech unless in the case of extraordinary circumstances e.g. only being aware of the speech less than 96 hours before it is to be given. All final decisions regarding the content of the speech remain with the speech writers.

21) Speech writers for issue-specific working groups will be chosen via a two thirds majority vote within the relevant working group. For speeches transcending issue boundaries, each working group may nominate one potential speech writer. A Youth Council vote will then decide upon the selection of speech writers.

22) Any amendment of this constitution will be done through a three-quarters majority vote of the Youth Council.

This blog is part of a series authored by Luke Kemp for /environment looking at how the youth constituency to the UN climate talks should reform itself. You can read his other articles here. The article that appears here has been revised, and the author would like to thank Joachim Thaler for his helpful thoughts and feedback that influenced the changes.