Enhanced Youth Participation: What Parties Can Do
By Jeffrey Qi
Civil societies play an integral role in the supervision, observation, and facilitation of the Paris Agreement parties’ implementation progress. IFSA, as an observatory organisation, joined in on the discussion on how to enhance and further engage various levels of civil societies and non-party stakeholders in the UNFCCC initiatives and processes at the Arrangements for Intergovernmental Meetings (AIM) In-Session Workshop.
Young NGOs (YOUNGO) is the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC. Delegates from YOUNGO pointed out that “NPS [non-Party stakeholders] already bring many contributions to UNFCCC process, but they also face many barriers to their effective engagement: including a lack of resources to participate and limited opportunities to provide inputs.” YOUNGO pointed out that youth are going to be the most affected by the decisions made under the Paris Agreement and the Convention. It is, thus, important to allow young people to engage in the framework meaningfully. To achieve this vision, UNFCCC Parties and the Secretariat need to be inclusive, responsive, collaborative, and transparent.
The in-session workshop later broke into three different small discussion groups:
- Enhancing ambition of NDCs and NAPs through climate action
- Expanding the scope of non-Party stakeholder contributions at the intergovernmental level (what the Parties can do)
- Diversifying modes of engagement and facilitating the participation in the intergovernmental level (what the Secretariat can do)
I joined the second focus group aiming to see what national governments can do to encourage more youth participation in the UNFCCC and other international processes. Though the discussion, I learned that the Netherlands and France have actively engaged young people in their negotiation and policy decision-making processes through a special Youth Delegate Program. Such program can offer young people a valuable platform for their input and opinions on this crucial issue. Both countries have successfully implemented the program and recruit youth from all regions of their countries to hear what they have to say about the negotiations that are going to affect their future.
Other suggestions made by delegates include having national delegations held (bilateral) meetings with NGO environmental organizations during UNFCCC conferences to report progress and hear input, include civil society within facilitative dialogue especially in developing the modalities of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, and making progress and conference more accessible to NGOs during UNFCCC processes through measures like financial support and travel reimbursement, etc.
However, Several countries’ representatives pointed out that there is potential conflict of interest and therefore nations are hesitant in connecting with civil society (which includes the private sector businesses). Nevertheless, such conflict of interest can be addressed through alternative measures such as disclaimers, opposing interest group encouragements, and the careful selection of delegations (but not an intentional exclusion). The attendees agreed that further talks on such issues are required due to the importance of this particular issue.
To conclude, actively engaging the most marginalised young people to promote social and political inclusion and ensuring practical opportunities and resources (information, capacities) to participate in the accountability processes is crucial in the implementation and the negotiation processes of the Paris Agreement. Parties and the Secretariat should and need to address the issues faced by civil societies and look for solutions in collaboration with NGOs and stakeholders.