Young people's views from COP
November 23, 2022
In November global leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27).
Thousands of young climate activists had landed the week before COP to join the Global Conference of Youth, the official gathering of YOUNGO members and the biggest and most substantial youth conference related to the multilateral UN climate processes.
Four Generation17 Young leaders attended COP27 and we asked two of them to share their thoughts and reflections. Shomy Chowdhury co-founder of Awareness 360 from Bangladesh and AY Young, from the USA, founder of Project 17.
Shomy was part of the Conference of Youth (COY) which is the main space for youth voices.
I participated at COY17 as a delegate of Bangladesh. As a Youth Advisory Board Member of Youth Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), I represented the organization and shared what we do during an "Organization Spotlight" segment.
Throughout the conference, I have engaged with young people from around the world, raising more awareness around the significance of ending NTDs for good and how it is intricately linked to the climate crisis. I was surprised to have interacted with youths who were completely unaware of the NTDs and those who resonated with my message and shared that they do not feel we talk enough about the NTDs in important spaces like this. Many showed interest in joining this movement which gave me hope about meaningfully engaging more youths in the fight against NTDs.
Another highlight for me was interacting with outstanding young people from around the world and observing their unending passion for saving our planet. I appreciated knowing more about the beautiful culture of Egypt, making new connections over scrumptious local food and conversations, and finding new avenues for partnerships post-conference. I loved how people from various backgrounds, champions of different causes, came together to share their unique experiences of suffering and best practices and demonstrated how connected all the SDGs are.
However, I was also quite disappointed with the mismanagement before and during the conference. COP has been historically inaccessible to many young people. I have seen how this time was no different for many youths, from accommodation to the language barrier. Usage of plastic, lack of inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities, lack of time management, and proper communication regarding what was happening around the COY17 Global Youth Statement – are some rooms for improvement.
Despite these drawbacks, many positives came out of this important gathering. The COY17 Global Youth Statement was handed over during COP27, which represented some critical demands from young people. The inclusion of the first-ever Children & Youth Pavilion, the appointment of the first-ever COP27 President's Youth Envoy, and, of course, the historic agreement on the Loss and Damage Fund were worth celebrating. However, as we look into the overall outcome, there are still many grey areas and some decisions that were taken or not taken, causing dismay.
AY Young performed and participated in dialogues during the two weeks of the COP27 as part of his Battery Tour campaign to launch "Project17" worldwide.
The children and youth pavilion was the best place to be in all of COP27. The best energy, the most diverse days. It felt like the centre of change. Led by Saad Uaakas, the pavilion exploded daily with art, speeches, and connection. One of the few pavilions gave me a UNDP space to perform songs from "Project17", for which I made one song for each Sustainable Development Goal.
Music is the key to impact. Anything involving music, art, or culture instantly just felt better. After wading through panel after a panel or talk after talk, music was always a healer.
People gravitated toward it. Upon arriving at COP27, I was scheduled for one performance for the entire two weeks. By the end, I had been performing six daily shows.
Leaders such as Nigel Topping and artists like Ellie Goulding stopped by instilling hope with words and classic moments. The Indigenous and African moments showed diversity and inclusion.
I think much is to grow and improve from the youth side of things. There needs to be more organization. This movement needs more players rather than captains. Youth who don't mind getting their hands dirty and grabbing some rebounds. That is lacking in this youth movement; until we get more organized and together, impact will not be made. My message to these hundreds of youth voices and "leaders." Learn what drives you, and then you will be a great contributor as a youth leader. Not everybody needs to be a "leader."
Overall, I’m blessed and humbled to be at COP27. Thankful for the opportunities to further projects as a youth leader that can impact the SDGs. Though I don't have all the answers, if we all use our passions to take action every day toward protecting our world, we will all be better. If we can humble ourselves and put selfish desires aside. If we can be authentic outlets for change plugged into our passions through understanding our "WHY". Together, we will do this!