By Fabíola Ortiz

STOCKHOLM (IDN) – Indigenous peoples are all but invisible on the development agenda but a hoped for change is on the cards with the launch of the world’s first and only funding institution to support the efforts of local and native communities to secure rights over their lands and resources.

“Include us, so that we can protect our lands for our children and protect the planet’s biodiversity for all the world’s children,” said by Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during the launch. Recognising the land rights of native and traditional peoples is a low-cost solution toward achieving the world’s development, environment and climate agendas.

- Photo: 2021

Policy Making Should Be the Final Destination for All Young Climate Activists and Their Peers

Viewpoint by Simone Galimberti

Simone Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, a not-for-profit NGO based in Nepal. He writes on volunteerism, social inclusion, youth development and regional integration as an engine to improve people’s lives.

KATHMANDU (IDN) — As forecasted by many, the Glasgow Summit has been, eventually, a flop on most counts.

If we want to make a real effort and try to see the final agreement from a more optimistic perspective, certainly there was some progress but neither of the nature that many were hoping for nor what planet earth is demanding.

No matter the level of public pressure exerted on the policy makers, ultimately it was impossible to strike a comprehensive deal that would, on one hand, raise the financial support for developing nations, including the much-talked issue of loss & damage and on the other hand, pave the way for a more drastic coal phase out.

Young climate activists have been dominating the scene and despite their bold voices and courageous efforts, they were unable to get what they wanted, a far-sighted, historical deal.

While there is no doubt that their strategies have been successful in creating public awareness and overall raising the stakes, ultimately the fate of the deal was signed by the official representatives of the member nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the weeks, months and years ahead, we expect the same energy and ingenuity so far shown by these young leaders to be able to keep up with the needed pressure because is the only way to ensure political leaders from around the world won’t divert their focus and remain committed on more ambitious targets.

At the same time there is the risk that the same tactics might not be enough to bring the desired change.

We need to muster a collective effort to broaden up the spheres of activism, popularizing it and enabling the masses of apathetic youth, the vast majority of them, those millions of young citizens who are still not on board in terms of climate action, to join the cause.

The young activists at the core of the limelight at Glasgow and earlier on, played the indispensable role of setting the pathway forward, making noise and ridiculing the politicians for their failures and overall lack of leadership.

Yet keeping the pressure up on the world stage is not going to be enough: we need to make the fight against climate change more inclusive and more participatory.

The overall goal would be to create an army of engaged young citizens able to join not only the cause of climate action but hopefully also other related issues because, “connecting the dots” among the various unfolding crises, is going to be paramount.

First it is now indispensable to go back to the grassroots and win over those disengaged youth that so far have not been showing any interest in climate change nor for any other major cause.

Second, we need to ease the youth’s way towards real policy making.

Shouting, picketing, and staging protests easily grab the headlines but, while these actions are essentials and must continue, at the same time other forms of engagement must be also pursued.

After all, one thing is to lead a march, speak on the microphone at the most important global events but it is another’s to find the way to engage those who stay behind.

The so-called followers need to step up and find their venue to exercise their leaderships, something that can be done in multi-fold ways.

Small actions undertaken by those youth who never ever would join a protest march, do also count and with that, the awareness and lobbying they might make locally and far from the limelight.

For example, the vast and promising field of education for sustainable development holds potential.

This is an area being promoted by UNESCO that can connect issues like climate change, biodiversity, human rights and civic engagement, is where action could be stepped up and get mainstreamed in the system.

Similarly, and aligned to it, volunteering is one of the best ways to link a cause with practical work on the ground, doing it in a way that does not replace the duty holders but instead complement their work while prompting them to do more and better.

Moreover, let’s not forget that climate action, while an issue on its own standing, has real implications on all the fronts, including gender and the overall inequality agenda.

You might have a young male interested on gender equality and empowerment that from now onwards will find ways to link his passion with the impact that climate change can have on genders’ power relations.

At the same time, you can find a young woman activist focused on education, devising new teaching and extracurricular activities that can improve the quality of local education while also talking about environment’s preservation and new behaviours that must be embraced by children if we want to have a much greener future.

It is ultimately about harnessing civic engagement as an antidote against the multiple crises we are experiencing.

When I do hear the Secretary General of the United Nations talking about a “New Social Contract”, I do imagine better relations between authorities and citizens, an enhanced partnership through more and better civic participation.

We have an entire spectrum of actions, from street protests to appearances to key talk shows but we should not discount the role played by others.

From the simplest commitment to share on a social media’s feed news on key social issues or, stepping up from this, writing an opinion piece or organize local awareness programs, involving a local school in discussing the implications of climate change and other issues.

I am sure that many prominent young activists at the center of the global debate on climate action are already doing so and they should be appreciated and supported for being able to bring climate action at the center of global discussions.

At the same time, it’s really paramount to enlarge this “circle” of activists in massive way and sketch out a diversified array of tactics that can propel millions of inactive youth into action.

The ultimate goal should not be just enhancing advocacy and awareness making to reach the goal.

We need to go beyond that.

It should not be even the promotion of volunteerism per se as one of the beast tools to solve problems on the ground, the final goal.

The overarching goal of this civic journey through national and local efforts should be finding ways for youth to enter in the political arena.

This is the only way that change can be brought about.

A discussion should be initiated about the meanings and implications of more youth joining politics and the different forms such new dynamism might take because “doing” politics does not necessarily mean joining a political party though, so far, this is the supposed to be the “mainstreamed” way.

There is an urgent need to rethink the spheres and meaning of policy making, turning it more accessible and inclusive.

Localizing the SDGs should all about such effort and I do hope that talks on a New Social Contract might help finding new ways of enabling more people, especially the youth, to turn themselves into policy making rather than just mere spectators of decisions that, no matters their slogans and protests, are being taken by others. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 November 2021]

Photo: Young climate activists take part in demonstrations at the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. UN News/Laura Quiñones

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