Beyond Youthwashing: How to Make Youth Representation at Police Conferences More Impactful
Eduarda Zoghbi|November 16, 2021
The United Nations officially acknowledged YOUNGO– the Youth Constituency of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change– in 2011 at COP17. The addition of education in the Paris Agreement was a direct outcome of youth advocacy and, every year, young individuals press their nation negotiators for more ambitious action both at home and in the Blue Zone at COP meetings.
I saw several events about the value of young people in the climate settlement procedure where they never asked a youth representative to speak. Now we have more youth than ever joining this fight, and with higher youth involvement comes higher demand for change.COP26 may have counted with one of the largest youth representations in history. I am still waiting for the acknowledgement of marginalized youth from rural communities and small islands to have a voice at COPs.
The author at a street protest during COP15. Image courtesy Eduarda Zoghbi
After going to the COP26 conference in Glasgow, I am surprised at how drastically youth representation at these meetings has actually shifted for many years.
My very first COP experience was in 2009. I was a high school trainee living in Denmark for an exchange program and was currently thinking about solving environment change concerns. At that time, COPs did not open their doors for civil society and, to get in, you needed to be part of a government delegation or an effective personal sector business. I asked my school how to get accreditation and nobody knew how. Pals were trying to get tickets for the Green Zone– the space where the public have their voices heard through workshops and events– and it was still nearly difficult due to the high demand.
Not having the ability to access COP15, I decided to get a train to Copenhagen and join the street protests. At the age of 16, I was one of the couple of young people present, the majority of whom were Danish or representing the Global North. It was just in 2016, in Marrakesh, that I was finally able to get in COP22s Blue Zone, where settlements take location and country structures display their work in side occasions. This chance was only possible since of Engajamundo, a youth-led organization from my house nation of Brazil that, since 2012, has been combating to combat climate change and increase the existence of youth from the Global South in COP conferences.
The United Nations formally recognized YOUNGO– the Youth Constituency of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change– in 2011 at COP17. Together with YOUNGO, Engajamundo and other youth-led organizations from various countries started working to influence the climate negotiations at COP. The addition of education in the Paris Agreement was a direct result of youth advocacy and, every year, young people push their country mediators for more ambitious action both in your home and in the Blue Zone at COP meetings.
This year, for the very first time, the Italian government hosted in Milan a youth pre-COP event and welcomed two youth agents from every country to develop a base-document with suggestions to be delivered to world ministers. I was accountable for preparing the environment education part of this file and was extremely engaged with other discussions including financing, the energy transition and adjustment. In my commitment to elevate women in the energy sector and supporter for environment justice, I communicated these points in Milan and at COP26 events in Glasgow.
The author with members of Engajamundo, a youth-led company, at COP22. Picture courtesy of Eduarda Zoghbi
Despite these efforts to bring youth to the table, the generalized sensation is that more companies, companies and governments are adhering to youthwashing. Everyone wishes to display climate activists faces in ads to show they are committed to the future generation, however the truth is really various. Throughout the Milan occasion, I was in close contact with the Italian and british environment education focal points as they were organizing a COP26 event with education ministers to debate our suggestions. I asked to be part of it and was told to contact them through email. I did. And I never ever heard back.
This is not an exception; this is a guideline. Youth are tokenized every day in these events. I witnessed numerous events about the value of youths in the environment settlement procedure where they never ever asked a youth representative to speak. Other events shared commitments to youth without inviting them be there in the exact same space. It is simple to acknowledge us, but what we require are federal governments and personal stakeholders to change our words into action.
But the tides are turning. We have actually been striking for an extremely long time, Greta Thunberg became a sign of environment advocacy, and this has fortunately awoken the interest of numerous individuals. Now we have more youth than ever joining this fight, and with greater youth involvement comes greater need for change.COP26 might have counted with one of the biggest youth representations in history. I understand for a reality the Brazilian youth delegation is the biggest and most varied it has ever been, with many Indigenous representatives, trans females, Black neighborhoods and teenage members of Fridays for Future.
Recalling at the days I was striking alone in Copenhagen, it fills my heart with want to see a new motion of youths defending the space they deserve in environment negotiations. Now I wish to see all this varied representation equated into the settlement areas. I am still awaiting countries to follow the examples of Panama and Mexico, whose federal government delegations are filled with young females. I am still waiting for the recognition of marginalized youth from small islands and rural neighborhoods to have a voice at COPs. I am waiting for the day youth will no longer be ignored and discriminated against based on our color, age, ethnic culture and gender, so that we can be offered an opportunity and the microphone to speak up.
The issue is, we dont have time to wait.
Eduarda Zoghbi is a college student in Columbia Universitys Master of Public Administration program, focusing on energy and the environment and concentrating on gender and public law.