From 28th November to 10th December 2011, six members of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Network (CYCN) attended the two weeks of the 17th Conference Of Parties at the United nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) as well as the 7th Conference Of Youth (COY7) from 25th to 27th November which all took place in the city of Durban, South Africa. The main goal was to increase the awareness on the network and the activities undertaken by its members at the conference. The objectives were to promote the network as a viable umbrella of youth organizations working on climate change and sustainable development; increase its membership by incorporating transformational leaders from across the Commonwealth; create a strategic partnerships aiming to further develop the scope of the work undertaken by the network, and finally improve the participation of youth from the Commonwealth at the UN negotiation process on climate change.
The network team in Durban was composed with the following youth, representing different Commonwealth countries:
Ms. Esther Agbarakwe (Nigeria)
Mr. Garvin B. Perry (Trinidad and Tobago)
Ms. Sarika Katoch (India)
Mr. Chola Simwanza (Zambia)
Mr. Jean Paul Brice Affana (Cameroon)
Mr. Rishab Khanna (India)
From its preparation to its participation, the team received full support from Mrs. Helen Jones and Mr. Vic Craggs from the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council (CYEC) and from Mr. Layne Robinson from the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP). Their assistance consisted on the preparation of the team plans’ for Durban (CYP) and a financial support covering airfare and local costs for three of the six members as well as other logistic arrangements in Durban (CYEC). A communication channel has been established using emails and phone calls to maintain the contact between both teams. The CYEC also provided support for printing of promotional materials such as flyers, posters and reports of activities that the members of the network have used and distributed in Durban.
Given his role as Focal Point of the Youth Constituency at the UNFCCC in 2011, Mr. Jean Paul Brice Affana, has facilitated accreditation to the COP17 for three members of the network with Abibimman Foundation and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS). He also arranged a free visa to South Africa for the same people upon arrival at the borders and ensured that the network members register for the COY7; get a booth for exhibition of their work inside the COP17 venue as well as get a space for a side event and slots at the “Climate Change Studio”. He also facilitated the CISCO TelePresence session which took place.
The first involvement of the CYCN was at the COY7 held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal-Durban (www.youthclimate.org/coy7). There, the representatives of the network who arrived firstly separately did an exhibition of some of their local/national activities during the three days of the conference. There was an exhibition area where youth were invited to promote their activities, organizations, networks and publications. The CYCN used this space and also join other activities including plenary, thematic workshops, open discussions and social activities. All these spaces enabled them to learn more about the Youth Constituency at the UNFCCC as well as why and how global youth effective participation in the UNFCCC negotiations processes is important. Many workshops took place for capacity-building with a number of plenary for group and general sessions.
At the COP17 (www.cop17-cmp7durban.com), the network had activities from 28th November to 10th December inside the Durban Convention Centre and the Durban Exhibition Centre. The team first of all met and greet during a first contact meeting that took place two times according to members’ arrival in Durban. A daily attendance of the Youth Constituency (YOUNGO) meetings every morning from 8:00am-9:00am enabled the team to be up to date with the planning of all youth activities related to the negotiations. These meetings helped to promote the network within YOUNGO constituents and their major working groups. Network members have also learnt from other global youth leaders how the lobby process at the UNFCCC works by participating in other capacity building sessions and daily briefings. Attendance of the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA) meetings was also encouraged among members. Other important activities have been the following:
1. A public exhibition of the network at the Durban Exhibition Centre during the 2 weeks of the COP17, located at Abibimman Foundation booth near the Youth booths area. This exhibition was selected by the UNFCCC through the youth foundation from Ghana who agreed to support the network and give it a place at the booth where promotional materials on the network were distributed.
2. A presentation of the network at the ‘’Climate Change Studio’’ opens at the Durban Exhibition Centre and where individuals and organizations were interviewed briefly by medias covering the COP17 on their actions, solutions, observations and issues that have impact on climate change. The network got two slots from 10.30am to 10.50am each. The interview was filmed, edited and broadcast on Climate Change TV and also catalogued in a fully searchable database with other interviews from experts, decision makers, activists, etc.
3. A side event in collaboration with Abibimman Foundation took place at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Thursday 1st December from 20:15pm to 21:45pm that members of the network attended and had a chance to exchange with participants there and present their actions. The side event has been approved by the UNFCCC Secretariat and was submitted by the youth foundation from Ghana which applied on behalf of the network after receiving a request from its members. Co-hosting the side event has enabled to highlight the network and the Commonwealth actions on climate change with youth contribution to find the most sustainable solutions.
4. A CISCO TelePresence session on youth participation at the COP17 facilitated by YOUNGO took place on Thursday 8th December from 3.00pm to 4.00pm at the Durban Convention Centre. It served as an avenue to present the network and connect participants in Durban with other cities like London and Singapore, respectively joined by some staff members of the CYEC and a youth member of ECO-Singapore.
5. Participation in a World Café Workshop which brought together youth from around the globe ranging from Singapore, South Africa, Japan, Canada, USA and Trinidad and Tobago among other nations to discuss their unique perspective on the impact of climate change on the earth left each participant with a profound understanding of a need for the youth to work towards an unified campaign to promote the need for resolution and bounding agreements at the high level talks.
6. Some members of the network have been supporting the ‘’I Love KP (Kyoto Protocol)’’ T-shirts campaign which consisted for people to dress with T-shirts showing their support to a second period commitment for the Kyoto Protocol. The campaign got important international media coverage and attracted a lot of public attention. At the end the negotiators considered the request.
7. The participation of the CYCN in a United Nations Alternative Energy Project show casing the use of solar heaters in local areas of South Africa and implemented by UN gave some of the team members the opportunity to visit, observe and participate in such project mitigating the impacts of climate change by the effective use of alternative energy. This opportunity allowed the network to have a visibility in the distant areas of the city of Durban.
Another opportunity to promote the CYCN was a local Tree Planting Project in Durban on Sunday 4th December, when the team had the opportunity to visit a local township in Durban and get hands together to plant trees for climate mitigation. The team in Durban also had a meeting and a photo session with Ms. Kristen Dukes, Miss Earth South Africa 2011 to whom they proposed to become Ambassador of the network for future activities. They also had a discussion with Mr. Christopher Palmer who is coordinating the ‘’Climate Champions’’ programme at the British Council and his team.
Regarding the official process of the COP17, the team was following the negotiations and also attended some parts of the High-level Segment of the COP in addition to the briefings organized for civil society or youth by the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Mrs. Christina Figueres, the Chairs of the Convention bodies (AWG-LCA, AWG-KP, SBI and SBSTA) and by the President of COP17/CMP7, Mrs. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of External Relations of South Africa. The CYCN members tried when possible to have meeting with representatives of their national delegations at COP17. They encouraged other youth leaders and their organizations to get involve with the network to increase its membership. A membership form was distributed inside the COP’s venues and during youth meetings in order to collect contact details of interested people to join. After the COP17, the network started to plan its participation at the Rio+20 UN Conference in June 2012 in Brazil.