The Commonwealth Charter describes the protection of the environment as a fundamental value. As tackling climate change requires a multi-national and stakeholder approach, Commonwealth member states have committed to encouraging and welcoming contributions to the required solutions by all local and national governments, regional and international organisations, the private and not-for-profit sectors, professional and academic bodies, civil society organisations and individual citizens, including young people.
The Commonwealth’s philosophy on youth empowerment stresses meaningful access to development and policy processes, as a critical way of ensuring that young people’s unique perspectives and ideas are heard and included in decision making. On the issue of climate change in particular, young people have more at stake than any other demographic group, and their energy, innovation and commitment will be critical to identifying and implementing strategies and actions that will shape our future.
Why is the youth cohort so important? Despite a growing number of nations demonstrating ageing populations, young people still account for a large proportion of the population in many countries, particularly in developing nations. People under the age of 30 now account for more than half of the global population.
At a Special Session on Climate Change held during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in November 2015, Commonwealth Heads of Government made a Leaders’ Statement on Climate Action where they applauded the creation of the Commonwealth Youth Climate Change Network (CYCN), and the commitment and contributions of this Network and other Commonwealth partners to the realisation of our collective aspirations to secure climate stability and safety.
This demonstrates how Commonwealth leaders have always recognised the importance of getting young people actively involved in high-level policy debate and projects on development-related issues. In return, young people have long ago committed to play a key part in the collective responsibility of the Commonwealth to mitigate climate change and support communities to adapt to its impacts.
In Guyana, under the leadership of Leanna Kalicharan, the newly appointed CYCN Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean and the Americas region, the Caribbean Youth Environment Network hosted a dialogue with university students to discuss anthropogenic impacts on the decline of biodiversity during the International Day for Biological Diversity 2015. Students later promoted a video to advocate the importance of biodiversity for achieving sustainable development.
Israel Boinyi, a freelance communicator from Cameroon, started with a small science blog, The Wink Writes, initiated in 2013 to communicate about poaching, forests and wildlife exploitation. He soon became an advocate for behaviour changes in favour of the environment with UNEP Tunza Eco Generation and continued to report on climate change to a wide audience in a more accessible way.
Arianna Kassman, the CYCN Pacific region Coordinator, works with 350.org Pacific in her home country, Papua New Guinea, to deliver youth-led grassroots action to fight climate change in rural communities and schools. Arianne also helps to train young people on anti-corruption in climate change, giving them the opportunity to develop new skills in holding their governments to account in the promised responses made to combat global warming.
Young people have a key role to play in combating this threat. Their commitment to work with governments and all partners towards this goal must be strengthened and empowered. The new leaders of the CYCN are committed to building the capacity of young people across the Commonwealth in their endeavours to address climate change and other environmental issues, and to advocate on climate change from a youth perspective.
The new Network Coordinator, Steering Committee members, and Regional Coordinators representing various countries and all the regions, will coordinate, monitor, evaluate, and track progress and achievements of the Network activities, programmes, and impacts, working closely with their peers and numbers of partners and institutions, such as the Commonwealth Youth Council.
There is no doubt that climate change is having a catastrophic impact on the most vulnerable fragment of the Commonwealth nations, especially small states. There is also a clear imperative to help strengthen young people’s contributions to global efforts to address climate change, and in support to the Commonwealth’s Nationally Determined Contributions developed in the lead up to COP21 last year.
Through their collective actions, young people will be part of the powerful shift towards holding the increase in global average temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to keep climate resilience within reach. The newly appointed CYCN leaders have a clear mandate to champion that role, and to engage in effective advocacy to deliver change.
Meet the newly appointed members of the CYCN Leadership Team.
Written by Jean Paul Affana, outgoing CYCN Coordinator
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