COP18/CMP8: Young People Tell Climate Negotiators That It’s also about Their Future

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Emmanuel Okella
Doha. Dec, 2012

While their numbers and even voices may not be as pronounced at the UN climate negotiations here in Doha, the simple presence of young people at the talks is a reminder to the negotiators that it’s not just about the energy and economic security, but also about generations to come.

While different countries and same interest blocks protectively fight for their bargain, the youths here are not interested on who takes what, all they are watching for is whether the outcome of these talks will safeguard the rights of future generations.

“All we are here for is to demand for is inter-generational equity. We want these delegates to know that it’s out future they are bargaining with” said Obiake Michael, a youth who has traveled to Doha as part of the African observer team with the United Nations.

“Whatever agreement they will reach here is a cheque that will be cashed by either us or our children and all the young people across the world”.

Youth from around the world stage a silent demonstration  at COP18?CMP8. By Fredrick Mugira
Youth from around the world stage a silent demonstration at COP18?CMP8. By Fredrick Mugira

Obiake belongs to the Nigeria United Nations of Youths, a youth movement for positive change in West Africa. The movement is mobilizing every youth in Nigeria to plant at least five trees.

The executive president of the group Prince Goodluck Obi says they are also running a campaign to encourage the youths to engage in agriculture. He says many young people in Africa have abandoned the continent’s backbone activity and remain unproductive in the wake of the soaring unemployment.

“We are lobbying governments to offer young people incentives to back to the gardens and feed the population. These could be through interest free loans, subsidies or even mechanized implements”.

Obi says the other challenge for most of Africa has been the “get rich quick” syndrome that he says has polarized the brains of young people. “Many of them are lured into the love for quick money and engage in wrong ways, but we keep telling them it’s about how far but how well” he said.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says the reduced participation of youth in agriculture production is a threat to food security considering that they form the majority of nearly 60 per cent of Africa’s population residing in rural areas.

The agency warns that this trend not only contributes to urbanization but also food shortage for the world that’s being projected to reach 9.2 billion people by 2050.

Farming practices in Africa have remained traditional for generations and failure to improve productivity and bring innovation into the sector continues to push many youths away from opportunities in agriculture.

Agriculture could play a major role in providing solutions to the current problems of food shortage and youth unemployment in Africa.

As negotiators and policymakers articulate new approaches to address climate change here in Doha, it’s important they are mindful of the aspirations and interests of the young people but also how to engage them in modern and smart agriculture for sustainable development.

The job of the negotiators at COP18 is to listen to these messages and act accordingly.

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