The final negotiations on the UN agreement for nature have played out over the past two weeks, with 188 governments represented.
The youth movements have been present every day to ensure their voices are heard. They are well-informed and well-organised. They have pushed for the agreement to raise the bar, and several of their demands have been listened to.
Young people lack resources to participate
However, the youth movements have also talked about those who could not be there, who did not receive funding for their travel and accommodation, or who lacked the resources to organise themselves.
It costs time and money to build up one’s knowledge of biodiversity and one’s capacity to exert influence in international negotiations.
“There are so many young people out there who want to get involved but don’t have a chance. I’m very privileged to be here, even if the work I do here is unpaid,” says Perla Sigrun Gisladottir, who participated in a debate organised by Nordic co-operation at COP15 in Montreal.
Danish Youth Climate Council can serve as a model
The debate “Better finance for youth - The need for political commitment and institutional support” bore testament to the barriers that young people face in terms of both language and knowledge when applying for funding. They called for more locally anchored structures for applying for funding, building up knowledge, and having an influence.
They also spoke about ways to secure youth influence in the implementation of the agreement outside of the Nordic Region. The Danish Youth Climate Council could serve as a model for other Nordic countries in establishing advisory youth councils for climate and biodiversity. Discussions are ongoing in several Nordic countries.
Funding for young people needs to be stepped up
The question of funding young people’s involvement has been raised both by the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network and the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.
In the Nordic Youth Position Paper on Biodiversity, 3,000 young people from the Nordic Region have put forward 19 demands for the negotiations on biodiversity.
Four of the requirements are about increasing funding for young people, especially for indigenous peoples, as well as about building up knowledge and negotiation capacity.
Nordic youth networks have built up knowledge
The work of the network is funded by Nordic co-operation, which also paid for the participation of 14 Nordic youth representatives at COP15.
Lene Westgaard-Halle, Norwegian member of the Nordic Council Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region, is satisfied with the result.
“I’ve met with the Nordic youth network here at the negotiations and am hugely impressed by their level of knowledge and strategic approach. I can see the need for more long-term funding of young people’s environmental engagement, both regionally and globally. I think that solutions within private-public partnerships should be investigated,” says Westgaard-Halle.
Young people to participate in implementation of agreement
The new global agreement for biodiversity agreed in Montreal clearly states the importance of involving young people.
This means that one of the most important funding bodies for environmental organisations, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), must start thinking about how funding can be stepped up for young people who want to contribute to the implementation of the UN agreement on biodiversity.
Today’s young people are tomorrow’s negotiators
“Although we’re not currently in a position where we can fund youth participation at COP, since we’re talking about people who are effectively the negotiators of tomorrow, direct funding is an issue that we’re discussing. We’re ready to continue dialogue with youth organisations,” said Paola Ridolfi, Head of Operations and Policy at the GEF.
Nordics give young people opportunity to influence
In 2019, the Nordic Council Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region initiated a project to give Nordic young people an influence in the new global agreement for biodiversity. The initiative received broad support from the Nordic governments.
The project has enabled environmentally engaged young people in the Nordic Region to organise themselves by way of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network, which is now part of the global youth movement.
Nordic funding being explored
The Nordic Council Committee for a Sustainable Nordic Region has taken the initiative to explore the possibilities for a Nordic fund for youth efforts relating to the climate and biodiversity. This work is ongoing.
The committee has also proposed that the Nordic countries establish youth councils for the climate and biodiversity to give young people the opportunity to have influence.
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