How African Youth are Participating in Global Climate Change Politics

By Landry Ndriko Mayigane1

WMO and its Members have pledged to promote the active participation of global youth in issues related to weather and climate change by dedicating 2014 to “Weather and Climate: Engaging Youth.” In this context, I would like to share my experience of engaging youth in Africa and around the world, especially in the area of “climate justice mobilization.”

Many African youth became involved with climate change issues in 2006 when the African Youth Initiative on Climate (AYICC) was launched. This took place during the 12th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Nairobi, Kenya. Since then, the network has grown and gained momentum. It is now the leading youth movement on climate change and sustainable development in Africa, with well over 10 000 members in 42 countries.

AYICC is recognized as a strong constituency for youth in Africa by many international organizations, including the African Union Commission, the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It works closely with the UNFCCC Youth Constituency (YOUNGO) to promote the effective participation of African youth in the UNFCCC process. Over the last four years, more than 300 African youth leaders have participated in the annual climate change international conferences. We take the Latin saying Nihil de nobis, sine nobis (Nothing about us without us) to heart. As African youth, we resolve to engage more actively in international debates and initiatives on climate change and to raise our voices and concerns in the processes that affect our future.

AYICC members create climate change awareness in their communities and work on adapting to climate change impacts. They use AYICC as a hub to share best practices. Together they build a conscientious and resilient generation of African youths who will act as change makers and global citizens.

African Youth Climate Justice Caravan

One of the greatest youth mobilizations for climate justice in Africa has been the African Youth Climate Justice Caravan, dubbed “We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice.” Some 160 youth from 18 countries embarked on a caravan trip from Nairobi, Kenya, across six countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. They performed in 10 climate justice concerts and numerous street shows through rain and shine all the way to Durban in December 2011 to demand climate justice at COP 17.

African Youth Caravan at COY 7,
University of Kwa Zulu Natal, Durban. - Caravan Media Team

The over 200 000 petitions that they collected during the road trip were handed over to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres by Archbishop Desmond Tutu who had acted as the patron of the ‘We Have Faith’ campaign. The caravan was an initiative of AYICC and the Kenyan Youth Climate Network (KYCN). Coordinated by AYICC members Winnie Asiti, Reuel Waithaka and David Wainaina, and supported by the Norwegian Church Aid, the campaign drew in faith-based organizations, youth groups, NGO’s and other civil society groups.

The campaign’s greatest success is in the awareness left in its wake in remote villages and the big cities, amongst youth, adults and elderly, everyday citizens and policymakers. It still remains Africa’s biggest ever climate justice campaign. Active groups have since emerged in many of these places. They are working to resolve the effects of climate change that already bedevil their communities.

Connected Voices

The Connected Voices (CV) project started in 2012 during COP18 in Doha, Qatar. CV provides a platform for youth from all countries and backgrounds to articulate their demands in international climate arenas through peer representation. CV collects messages from youth across the globe and channels them to negotiators directly involved in the COP sessions.

Some 1.5 billion young people in more than 150 countries have no direct representation at the UN climate change conferences. These young people live mainly in developing countries and are often highly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. They are the most important stakeholders – their futures are at stake – yet their voices are not heard. CV aims to change this. Last year during COP 19, Claire Anterea from the Republic of Kiribati, a climate-vulnerable small island state in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, sent the message “We don’t want to be wiped away from the map of the world.”

My goal in CV is to increase youth participation and to assure that voices and messages from under-represented youth in Africa are heard by those directly involved in the negotiations. I have taken to heart the words of the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, who said, “Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation. Empowered, they can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society’s margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young peoplehave every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.”

I am convinced that we – the youth – can be part of the solutions to global issues. We should be given a chance to show what we are capable of. I encourage more young people to join our movements, to make our voice more audible in order to build an ever-greater momentum for positive change.

Landry during the UNFCCC climate Change Negotiations held
in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark

Useful links

African Youth Caravan: SACC%202012%20DOCS/NOV%202012/We%20have%20faith.pdf

Caravan video:

Connected voices pictures:

My other local involvement: https://www.facebook. com/pages/Rwanda-YACA-Youth-Alliance-for-Climate-Actions/360658207283160

My AYICC Profile:

1 President /Founder, Rwanda #YACA (Youth Alliance for Climate Actions)

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