In an inspiring and informative session during the Sida Annual Partners Meeting 2023, youth climate activists and partners came together to explore the role of young people in driving climate action.
The event, held on 27 September 27 2023, at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, was an opportunity to share experiences, challenges, and visions for meaningful youth engagement in climate action.
Setting the Stage
The session began with a powerful video compilation featuring contributions from partners setting the tone for the discussion.
In an opening remark by Jenny Collste Lager, Programme Specialist - Human Rights Democracy and Gender Equality from Sida, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency/the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, she emphasized the significance of action over hope, quoting climate activist Greta Thunberg: "We do need hope. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everything. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Only then, hope will come."
A challenging question was posed: "How can we help these young climate activists become leaders, partners, and drivers of climate action?" This question guided the discussions throughout the session.
Youth Voices: Lived Experiences and Challenges
The heart of the session was the sharing of personal stories by young climate activists. Each story shed light on the challenges faced by youth in the fight against climate change.
First, a journey was recounted from a marginalized rural community to becoming an activist. The discrimination faced by Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines and their struggle against large-scale mining activities that devastate their land were told. As a result, participants realized the importance of engaging mainstream youth in understanding and supporting Indigenous communities' climate efforts.
Another youth experience in investigating the smuggling of endangered red sandalwood in India was shared. Participants learned the significance of meaningful youth engagement and the need for support and resources for young people to participate effectively.
Born during the haze season in 1999 in Borneo, a young environmental human rights defender disclosed her efforts to raise awareness about climate change's urgency. She explained the risks and challenges faced by youth activists, including threats of deportation and security concerns, and the importance of safety in youth engagement.
Finally, youth work in local policy development and national climate adaptation planning was discussed. Participants had a chance to explore more into the shared passion of youth across generations and the need for intergenerational partnerships to advance climate justice.
Debate: An Important Aspect of Engaging with Youth
A lively debate among different groups addressed the most critical aspect of working with young climate activists. The following four groups of participants defended their positions:
Group 1: Seats at the table
Group 2: Resources for young people
Group 3: Intergenerational partnerships (creating space for younger people)
Group 4: Mental health/activist care
The debate delved into the importance of these aspects in creating an enabling environment for youth engagement.
Group 1 presented the need for youth to have meaningful participation and capacity building, emphasizing trust in intergenerational partnerships. Group 2 advocated for providing resources to empower youth and ensure agency in decision-making. Group 3 stressed the significance of intergenerational partnerships, understanding youth's language and tools, and creating a safe environment. And Group 4 highlighted the importance of mental health and activist care, ensuring sustainability in youth activism.
Closing Thoughts and Key Recommendations
Jenny Collste Lager concluded the session by expressing gratitude to all the young people and partners. She emphasized the commitment to continue to collaborate with youth. Last but not least, participants suggested the following key recommendations to Sida and other partners moving forward:
Support youth movements without imposing external agendas.
Facilitate youth engagement in project design.
Provide funding for youth to self-organize and participate meaningfully.
Engage youth from the project's inception.
Ensure safety and security training.
Prioritize diversity and inclusion, and promote gender-inclusive youth movements.
Establish mentorship programmes.
Let youth lead in donor engagement.
Support risk mitigation strategies.
Enable youth to advise strategic planning.
In summary, the session underscored the critical role of youth in climate action and the importance of meaningful engagement, support, and resources for young climate activists. By harnessing the passion and dedication of youth, we can collectively address the challenges of climate change and create a more sustainable future for all.
For more updates and insights on youth empowerment in climate action, please stay connected with YECAP.