The International Conference of Youth
Negotiations kicked off today and the youth are ready! The sixth annual Conference of Youth (COY6) took place at Cancun’s Universidad del Caribe from November 26th to 28th, the weekend preceding the UN climate negotiations.
The first COY took place in Montreal in 2005 and it has been growing and improving ever since. At COY6, hundreds of youth from around the world gathered with their peers who are passionate about fighting climate change in their respective countries. Imagine the vibe! There was so much positive energy at the conference, so many youth gathered to unify their voices and to fight for what is at stake at COP-16: our future. Youth in their delegation t-shirts made the opening session a colourful experience. At first sight, it was easy to identify the larger Australian, Chinese and Mexican delegations, but representatives from small island states, Scandinavian countries, and South America were also present. And that wasn’t all – the conference brought together everyone from Scouts, and representative from universities to representatives from community and environmental organizations.
So what did this group of strangers do together for 3 days? You would be surprised and impressed by our efficiency and our ability to work together. It turns out that with motivation and passion, anything is possible! We divided ourselves into working groups based on our individual strengths. These working groups, which varied from media to politics to long-term strategy, developed goals and strategized in order to move forward and send the message that our governments need to take strong, fair, and responsible measures to protect our climate.
The goal of COY6 was not only to prepare youth and to provide them with a venue in which to discuss and organize around the next two weeks, but also to develop future climate leaders. The most experienced attendees offered workshops, trainings and information sessions to help first-comers familiarize themselves with the complexities surrounding the UNFCCC process. The beauty of COY6 was also rooted in the spirit of mutual support through collaboration and solidarity. Mexican youth translated live in order to make the conference accessible to the local community. A consensus-based process was used to ensure that everyone was empowered to take part in decision-making and felt that their voices were heard.
We also had the opportunity to meet (and interview!) inspiring leaders like Bill McKibben, the founder of the international organization 350.org. Knowing that people like him support the youth climate movement is an important source of inspiration. After participating in COY6, I have no doubt about the legitimacy of the youth climate movement and the impact we can and will have over the next two weeks. With 29 members, the Canadian Youth Delegation is by far one of the largest delegations at COP-16 but we could not be nearly as influential as we need to be on the international scale without collaborating with our peers.
So watch out: we’re here! Negotiators and official delegations from around the world should prepare themselves for an important presence and constant pressure from youth during the negotiations. The first official appearance of youth in the process took place today with several official interventions in the opening plenary sessions of the various groups and subsidiary groups of the conference. Youth are full of vigor, we’re innovative and we are known for our energy, which sets us aside from the official negotiations. Whether it is through our actions, through our policy position, or through media coverage of the youth voice, we will ensure our voices are heard in more ways than one.