By Niel de Jong
At the Conference of Youth (COY13) in Bonn, the annual youth climate summit that takes place before COP, Hassan Aboelnga and Amrita Gautam (both from the World Youth Parliament of Water), Puja Doshi, and I organized a session on ‘Youth actions for combating climate change and water challenges’. Prior to the event, our separately planned sessions had both ran in logistic difficulties. So, in the spirit of youth action, and instead of competing for time, we improvised and adapted. We decided to merge our ideas into one session.
After a morning of COY introduction and group enthusiasm, our session started on the first day of the conference, right after lunch. With about 30 participants, interested in water, climate change, and, more generally, in youth action, we got together in a small classroom. And, whereas the role of teacher was interchangeable, we collectively shared the role of students as if working on a group project.
Hassan, Amrita, Puja, and I started as teachers by presenting an overview of water challenges and their relation to climate change. We presented cases from different places in the world. And we told the story of familiar youth initiatives, including our own youth organizations. The classroom was then flipped and our input was used to facilitate a discussion on problems our youth organizations often face. Topics that were reviewed included, among others, the specific role youth could fulfil in reaching water-related SDGs (with a focus on no. 6). And the inclusion of youth as a stakeholder in water management decisions, especially in the global South.
After two hours, the results were twofold. Participants shared an understanding of the water issues, management, and youth actions. And we took workable ideas home to our respective organizations. Ultimately, of course, all efforts contribute to the larger network. The network that we will use throughout our careers to connect with each other more easily. And the network that worked together at COY to present a final white paper at COP.
After our session, I visited other workshops on permaculture, renewable cooking fuels in Madagascar, and an experimental use of social bitcoins. I visited some of the people that participated in our workshop to continue debate and I discussed further about the outputs that should be captured on paper. To me COY represents a strange mix of youth experience and untenable enthusiasm. With many scholars and students as participants, people are not selling their ideas, they are sharing them. And most importantly, they are sharing enthusiasm gained through ideology and volunteerism.