Michael Asudi, from Kenya, is Country Coordinator and International Affairs Secretary for the Organization of Africa Youth, one of our Youth Power partners. Here he writes about what must be done to ensure African youth don’t get left behind in the Climate Agenda…
The world has a population of about one billion young people. While the West is experiencing an aging population, Africa and some parts of Asia are faced with an ever growing young population.
These diverse population dynamics have put pressure on natural resources. Rampant exploitation of African resources such as minerals, forests and water, coupled with rapid population growth, has left the region exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change.
To tackle these challenges, African youth must be at the forefront of the response.
Organisation of Africa Youth, a premier Pan African youth movement formed under the African Union’s African Youth Charter, believes that intergenerational equity and accountability must guide all the climate change adaptation and resilience strategies.
Leaving the African youth behind in these discussions goes against the the global recognised agenda to ‘Leave No One Behind’. These agendas will be meaningless to African youth if they are not part of the solution.
As a key message to the world during COP22, Organization of Africa Youth has three important three recommendations:
We want the climate change finance, Green Climate Fund, to work for everyone in the world. The youth are known drivers of disruptive innovations and creativity. With restrictive, cumbersome and ‘large player’ driven policies on access to the climate change facilities, the young people will find it impossible to test their ideas, innovations and toolkits to mitigate climate change challenges. We are less likely to record youth led innovations in areas like green energy, transport, architecture, smart agriculture and ICTs if the rules of the game are not changed. The Global Environment Facility and The Special Climate Change Fund target these segments. Therefore, we ask that an affirmative action other than the small grants facility under the Green Climate Fund and other funds be earmarked for the youth. If the fund cannot be devolved to regional levels, a fund should be created to receive the grants and funding for young people taking action on climate change. How many youth for example are aware of and can access accredited institutions like UNEP and ADB? COP 22 should address these concerns.
COP22 should end with a climate change champion for African youth. We need a champion to push the parties to keep their word and be transparent. We need clear information on how vulnerable and remote African youth can engage The African Climate Policy Centre and the youth caucus under the African Union Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change. We need someone or an institution that will speak out for and with the African youth and address the structural barriers that affect their participation in the agenda. Organisation of Africa Youth has piloted an intergenerational cooperation program with HelpAge international in Kenya to bring the young and the old into a dialogue for mentorship and seek solutions to societal challenges. Someone ‘big’ must boldly ask, on behalf of the young and future generations, why have only 81 Parties have ratified the Paris Agreement made at COP21 last year? If we don’t invest in African youth today, who in the future will asses the impact of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
Lastly, COP22 should localise and demystify the climate change topic. The topic should be communicated in a language that the youth can understand and relate with, their diversity notwithstanding. Climate change education and awareness among the youth should be given prominence. Climate change and COP processes should never be based on elitism. COP22 should focus on very local mitigation strategies that are sustainable and linked to job and social enterprises creation.
COP22 is happening on African soil. COP22 should make climate change finance work for all, and for African youth. COP22 presents the best opportunity for the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to lead other UN agencies in finding the ever equity and justice for the African youth – the marginalized majority. We must go beyond youth engagement in policy inputs and conference attendance to equal partnerships in in the creation of solutions to climate change.