Youth anger at lack of participation in UN biodiversity talks

By Tierney Smith
RTCC in Hyderabad 

The United Nations policy process should be more open to input from youth groups, according to campaigners at the COP11 biodiversity talks in Hyderabad.

In a statement on Wednesday to the main plenary, the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) called on the 192 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to ensure they consult youth groups while developing national environment plans.

“We are not here to ask you to fix the world’s problems for us, we are here to work with you and share the responsibility of finding solutions for achieving the Aichi targets,” the GYBN delegate said, adding: “We urge parties here to agree to include young people in the decision-making process.”

The motion, which asked all nations to establish and train youth delegations, was supported by Norway, the Dominican Republic and Gabon, and is included in the current draft text 5.4 entitled ‘The engagement of other stakeholders’. It will go to a vote in week two of COP11.

Access to UN talks for youth groups varies across different forums. Observers and accredited NGOs have access to open plenary sessions and workshops, and can occasionally make interventions, but these opportunities are limited.

In June a paragraph supporting youth participation in UN negotiations was deleted from the Rio+20 draft zero outcome text following opposition from Brazil and the G77 group of countries.

Frustration at this lack of engagement often boils over. Canadian delegates at the COP17 UN climate talks in 2011 were ejected from the main plenary after staging a demonstration, while another group walked out of Rio+20 in protest at lack of progress at that summit.

Groups are also attempting to influence these talks in other, innovative ways.

A parallel “model” UN summit was launched at COP11 last week, involving 25 college students from 25 Indian states, all of whom are members of India’s National Green Corps.

Their conclusions will be submitted at the high-level segment of the conference next week.

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan, the mock delegate for the Democratic Republic of Congo, told RTCC it was time youth groups were given some respect at high-level talks.

“I think the UN should have a Youth Forum or a Citizens Forum which sits directly under it and would give a chance for young people like us to be more directly involved in the process and submit our own ideas and proposals directly to the UN,” he said.

“This would allow us to by-pass the tedious job of having first to talk to the government so that they can take our views into account when at the negotiations. In India we have a lot of young people really into this and it would be a great way to get them more directly involved.”

COP11 VIDEO: Esther Agbarakwe (Nigeria) and Billy Lombe (Zambia) explain what role youth groups can play at environmental talks

Esther & Billy from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

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