Blog.Nov 10, 2022

Water and youth: We need to be at the heart of climate change negotiations

Youth have both a voice and expertise to bring to the decision-making tables for climate change. Ahead of COP27, one of SIWI’s youth empowerment champions Juanita Ayala attended the 17th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY17). She brought back hope and determination.

SIWI's Juanita Ayala at COY17, Egypt

This year the 17th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY17) gathered over 1000 delegates from 150 countries, and I was one of them. During three days of intense work, we participated in workshops, plenaries, and breakout sessions. We developed our capacities on topics such as the role of youth in climate adaptation, climate sensibilization and communication, and facilitation for climate change awareness. It was also a space for cultural exchange that broadened my perspective on the diversity of realities and contexts interlinked to a common challenge: climate change.

Recognizing emotions, triggering action

One of the questions that made me reflect the most is how climate change makes me feel in my daily life. Most of the conversation about climate change is on scientific data, which is fundamental for decision-making. However, emotions are a universal language and have the power to trigger actions. I realised that climate change makes me feel sad. Our poor choices are destroying the beauty of the world we live in as well as our livelihoods. But it also makes me feel motivated and empowered. Climate change impacts are felt the most through water. With my advocacy and work at SIWI, I am contributing to strengthening water governance and building resilience.

Youth engagement is indispensable to ensure sustainability and preserve the rights and needs of future generations, including access to clean water and sanitation. We have inherited many challenges, but we are committed to finding solutions and improving this situation for future generations.

Through this experience at COY, I have identified three key elements for successful and meaningful youth inclusion:

  1. Horizontal intergenerational and intersectoral knowledge exchange
  2. Secondly, transparent and timely communication
  3. Education and awareness

Youth empowerment in water diplomacy

This working paper explores the case for elevating youth engagement in water diplomacy processes as a key aspect of fostering sustainable and long-lasting transboundary water cooperation.

Making waves: Youth engagement in water diplomacy
Delegates at COY17, Egypt

A driving force towards the climate goals

We, the youth, have unique skills that can improve water governance and climate action. We were born in a digital revolution and have developed distinctive abilities such as to communicate complex challenges in a simple and impactful manner, taking advantage of social platforms like TikTok and Instagram. We have the capacity to mobilize people from around the world for a shared cause. We have  the passion, energy and hope to encourage climate action. Furthermore, we strongly believe a better world is possible!

As declared in the Global Youth Statement delivered to the COP27 mandate, youth represent a driving force to support and enhance the development of the water sector, and meet both, development and climate goals. Therefore, we demand an institutionalized, inclusive, meaningful, and collaborative engagement of youth in the water and climate sector.

Water needs to take a central place in climate change negotiations and policy action plans. Youth can certainly support this happening.

About COY

The United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY) is the annual event of the Official Youth Constituency of the United Nations on Climate Change (YOUNGO). COY happens before the Conference of Parties (COP), and its purpose is to foster capacity development and policy training for youth engaged in climate action and participating at the COP.

The main outcome of COY is the Youth Statement which gathers the voices and demands of youth and is delivered to the COP mandate to be included in the climate negotiations.

COY 17 took place between 2 – 4 November 2022, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.