Youth make their voices heard at MENA Climate Week


Young people and youth experts got together at the end of last month at the first ever Middle East and North Africa Climate Week, MENACW 2022 in Dubai to discuss ways to enhance meaningful youth engagement and participation in climate policy making and action in the Middle East and North Africa region.

A clear message from the discussions at a special event dedicated to youth is that the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement will only be achieved with the meaningful participation of all sectors of society, especially young people. Connected to each other as never before, young people are leading climate action by implementing emission reduction and adaptation projects, proposing innovative solutions, and inspiring political change.

Ina Parvanova, Director, Communications & Engagement Division, UN Climate Change secretariat, highlighted the importance of the 10-year Glasgow work programme on ACE that governments adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 last year. It recognizes the importance of youth as agents of change and promotes youth participation in relevant climate processes at both national and international level.

“The Paris Agreement recognizes that climate change is a complex challenge that cannot be solved by governments alone. We need everyone to be equipped and empowered to get involved, drive change and support governments in taking climate action so they can make good on their promises to achieve greater ambition.”

Issues and priorities highlighted during the youth event included: The need for climate education as a foundational tool; increased finance to deliver youth innovation and entrepreneurial solutions; urgently turning COP26 pledges into action; and promoting youth participation in national delegations at UN Climate Change meetings.

Youth is a focus of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). The over-arching goal of ACE is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action, through education and public awareness, training, public participation and access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.

At an ACE workshop, ACE National Focal Points and a diverse group of stakeholders, including youth, had the opportunity to brainstorm concrete opportunities to advance the implementation of the Glasgow Work Programme on ACE at the regional level.

Recommendations included the need for adequate capacity development, enhanced collaboration among a variety of stakeholders, and a deeper understanding of ways to integrate ACE into national polices and plans.

UN Climate Change has an official children and youth constituency known as YOUNGO, which is a vibrant, global network of children and youth activists as well as youth NGOs, who contribute to shaping the intergovernmental climate change policies and strive to empower youth to formally bring their voices to the UN Climate Change processes.

In this regard, Selma Bichbich, YOUNGO HR Working Group Contact Point (Algeria) stressed that: “Our actions will determine a future that we will be the ones leading.”

Janet Rogan, COP26 Regional Ambassador for MENA, said: “I was delighted to participate in YOUNGO’s event at MENA Climate Week. We discussed the critical role of education, youth voices and public awareness in driving climate action and the need for governments to include young people in their national preparations for COP27 and in their official delegations as negotiators and full participants.”

A clear message from the youth events at MENA Climate Week is that efforts to empower young people to participate in a meaningful way in climate change decision-making in the lead up to COP27 must be strengthened.

Amr Essam, Senior Adviser, COP27 Presidency Team, said: “The COP27 Presidency approaches the issue of youth climate engagement and participation not simply as a procedural obligation, but as a fundamental imperative dictated by the need to maximize the benefit from the unbelievable breadth and diversity of expertise and knowledge available among younger circles.”

Muna Alamoodi, Climate Change Advisor at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, said: “In the UAE, we firmly believe in the young generation’s ability to play an active role in strengthening climate action. In the run-up to COP27, we are committed to working with our partners in Egypt to help them facilitate youth involvement in the event. And as the host of COP28 in 2023, the UAE considers high youth engagement to be one of its key priorities.”

2022 is a critical year for ACE and youth. At the 56th session of the subsidiary bodies, Parties will undertake the development of an action plan focusing on immediate action through short-team, clear and time bound activities to advance the implementation of the priority areas set out in the Glasgow work programme. The development of the action plan will be guided by the outcome of the first in-session dialogue on ACE focusing on the engagement of children and youth in implementation of the four priority areas of the Glasgow work programme.

The ACE Hub, a project funded by the Federal State of North-Rhein Westfalen, will convene additional activities dedicated to support meaningful youth engagement in climate policy and action this year, including an annual Youth ACE exchange in June and a Hackathon to develop new ideas and solutions to increase awareness, education and participation in climate action in September.