Youth from all over the world gathered in one alliance. Observing, acting and lobbying in order to echo the voice of 58 million youth, at COP21 in Paris. World Alliance of YMCA united environmentalists from, inter alia, Kenya, Vietnam, USA, Sweden, Bangladesh and Peru, to exchange cultures and bring our variety of contexts of climate change into one team.
The team consisted of a delegation on the inside area and one on the outside. Except for tracking and communicating the negotiations, the inside team also mobilized people to lobby on some of the representatives’ national delegations. Some of us also collaborated with other actors at COP such as YOUNGO and IUCN.
The outside team was divided into three groups; activism, policy and communication. Their participation was connecting civil society with what was happening in parallel with the negotiations by creating workshops, seminars and actions.
What we actually did? Well, surviving on the inside of COP21 also required some informal skills. Except for running after celebrities, we sneakingly chased free food in the national pavilions and hooked organic chocolate bars from friendly NGO’s. Every now and then, some of us got lost and fell into microsleep in the corners of the negotiation halls.
The mixed pot of engaged youth in the YMCA-team working against climate change bubbles of individuals fighting for their core issues. Our policy argues for intergenerational equity, climate justice and gender equality. Human rights and indigenous people’s rights are also some of our main agenda points.
Reaching out to youth around the globe with our statements is not just about writing blogs in helvetica size 9 and tweeting hashtags. Activism is the most efficient way to deliver our message to the civil society. The last day at Green Zone, we created a large flash mob with our own climate version of Shakira’s Waka Waka dancing and chanting “Drive electric cars, eheh, solar power, ehehe, we live in this world, let’s pay the rent – Climate Agre-ement!”
COP21 finally approached its end and we synchronized our delegation on the inside and the outside to take part of the 500m human chain around Le Bourget where we carried red lines as a symbol for our limits. Some of us did our last try to push negotiators by catching some minutes of discussions with them the last days. Activists set up actions outside the negotiation rooms, making the politicians bare in mind the voices of youth of the earth, minutes before they started the work behind close doors.
By Vindar Fritzell, YMCA delegate at COP21
COP: Conference of Parties
YMCA: The Young Men’s Christian Association
YOUNGO: Youth NGOs, the UNFCCC observer constituency of youth organizations
IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature
NGO: Non Governmental Organization