Listening to Youth Voices on International Youth Day 2017

By Hilary Heath

International Youth Day, held 12 August every year, presents an ideal time to reflect on the importance of building the adaptation and resilience of youth to climate change. Today’s youth, as well as future generations, will inherit climate change problems that they did not cause. If the world continues on its current emissions trajectory, a 16-year-old in 2017 will witness between 3.3 and 3.9 ℃ of global warming and as much as 1.2 meters of sea level rise by the age of 70. Given this stark context, youth have a huge stake in building climate resilience. 

The CJRF strives to raise the voices of youth and support youth-led solutions to climate change. In support of this aim, the CJRF co-hosted a panel at the 20th Session of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations entitled “Dialogue for Change: Bringing the Youth Perspective into Global Decision Making.” CJRF collaborated with IIED and Climate-KIC to create a space where youth attendees could share their opinions on how organizations and politicians can effectively engage youth at a local, national, and global level.  The session was attended by about 130 young people, ages 16 to 28.

Heather McGray (CJRF), Liz Carlile (IIED), and Janet Murray (Climate-KIC) posed two questions to the youth attendees:

  1. What is the best way to engage young people in politics and public decision-making?
  2. In terms of innovation and business, what are the most powerful ways to unleash youth creativity and potential?

Panel attendees broke into small groups to brainstorm answers to these questions. When engaging youth in politics and public decision-making, attendees highlighted the importance of strengthening youth voice; bridging the knowledge gap between generations; creating platforms for youth to connect with one another and collaborate; and creating a space for young people to learn, about both the engagement process and specific issues. When it comes to youth creativity and innovation, attendees discussed the importance of building youth skills; providing education, training, and mentorship opportunities; and creating official channels for youth to engage locally, nationally, and globally with senior leaders.

The session at the Youth Assembly highlighted that today’s youth have the creativity and energy to engage effectively in international platforms. CJRF believes in harnessing this creativity and energy to bring youth into climate change decision-making. Young people’s perspectives, ideas, and actions are critical for building an equitable, resilient world where everyone can thrive.