The 25th climate conference of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), known as Conference of the Parties (or COP), could not escape the tension. First, to reduce her carbon footprint; to call attention from the world leaders towards achieving the Paris agreement signed in 2016 and to support their decision making in scientifically based facts, Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist decided to attend the event by sailing from (England) to New York (USA), instead of flying to Santiago de Chile.
Although she arrived in August with enough time to attend other events, in the meanwhile, due to heavy protests in Chile – caused by the disconformity of the Chilean society to their current economic model – forced the organisers to change the location to Madrid. This also forced the Swedish activist to sail again into the Atlantic to attend it. This chaos, combined with what happened during the COP25, increased the mediatic coverage, leading to more tension.
On one hand, speeches from Organisations and leaders claimed to strengthen climate actions while on the other, negotiations building on the commitments for the execution of the Paris Agreement were not going so well behind closed doors. Due to changes in logistics, many organisations could not attend the event. Instead of participating in the whole COP, daily-specific passes were provided, leading to a generalised discomfort in and outside the event. Furthermore, the deadline arrived and the final text with the agreements did not, for it needed a couple of extra days to finally release a document with which many concerns have been raised. People are still unsure of whether their leaders want to commit to climate change entirely or choose to simply ignore the warning signs of catastrophic climate concerns, by weighing economic achievements as their decision-making leverage.
Nevertheless, WYN’s role was not limited to being silent observers. The Network had the opportunity to showcase what it does, has achieved and what it expects to do in the time to follow. Our Colombian member Santiago, currently based in Spain, had the opportunity to represent the WYN in the Capacity-building Hub. It was a side-event seeking to gather organisations, institutions and experts that are working on similar topics in panels to invite them to collaborate and share knowledge.
In a session to highlight the importance of youth capacity building in the urban context, we participated alongside FLACSO a Latin-American Social Sciences Institute. We shared with the participants- our motto, our initiatives and what we have achieved, especially within the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Group since our creation.
It was a great opportunity to not just to share the nature of work our Organisation is involved in but also to encourage and drive home a goal that we can all be agents of change. Additionally, it was also a space to pledge that our knowledge, creativity and initiatives can contribute towards the achievement of the SGDs, as well as contributing with research and creating enough networks as possible that can lead us to work together to achieve disaster risk reduction. Later, a conversation among the attending youth brought us closer for we engaged in discussing the challenges we face, the opportunities we have and the strategies to follow up, so that we, as young people, feel empowered to be the change, to raise our voice and combine efforts.
From left to right: Henk Ovink (Special Envoy for International Water Affairs at Kingdom of the Netherlands), Ana Belén (Global Catholic Climate Movement) and Santiago Gómez (Water Youth Network)
Lastly, echoing what Thunberg says: “No one is too small to make a difference”.