Oftentimes people’s perceptions of youth voices in international negotiations is that it is little more than a token initiative but that is not the case. The Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) has been created with the idea of bringing Malaysian youth voices to the Conference of Parties on climate change as well as get the Malaysian government and other local organisations to recognise and take youths seriously when it comes to these issues.
Their 3rd intake for MYD just closed and they concluded their first camp to engage the new applicants in mid-April. The way MYD operates is that they organise activities/ workshops/ engagement sessions for themselves (and other interested members of the public) to prepare them for the rigorousness of climate change policymaking. Especially the annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences, better known as the COPs. This new batch will prepare themselves for this year’s COP 23 that will be held in Bonn, Germany from the 6th to the 17th of November.
The camp was an introduction to all the different undertakings that participants would have to do in the lead-up to COP. The sessions dealt with topics like the youth role in UNFCCC and developing vs developed nations struggles in negotiations. A couple of the speakers who came down were Adrian Yeo, the founder of this initiative and Yoke Ling a lawyer and current Director of Programmes at Third World Network through which she got the opportunity to become an observer at previous COPs. They explained how the COP process worked and how the youth and NGO voices came through prior to and during negotiations.
This was definitely not a free ticket to Bonn. It was playing out to be an intense 8 months of hard work leading up to COP 23 followed by more months of post-COP outreach activities, media engagement as well as recruitment initiatives for the next batch of COP. Previous MYD members ran the camp, providing their insights and experiences. The explained how they engaged various NGOs,ministry officials and negotiators, fact checked reports that the government was sending to the UN and engaged in extensive media outreach activities to spread awareness.
The experiences they had at the conference sounded quite fun and challenging at the same time. The two weeks were hectic with them running from one meeting to another, participating in activities organised by the various countries centering around climate change, demonstrations and other events happening around the city. In between meetings they would take some time off to meet to discuss the day’s happenings and other issues. They were also drafting articles at the same time all the while being supported by the home team in Malaysia.
The second day of the camp began with a morning hike up Broga. After that, there were supposed to be two more sessions on fundraising and sponsorships but the speakers were unable to make it so the MYD team used the time as an opportunity to expose the participants to more details about UNFCCC. There was also a little diplomatic exercise designed to give participants a small taste of how it would be like to engage in negotiations and arrive at a consensus. The exercise centered around a broken toilet that group members had to negotiate over how to collectively fix it given the limited resources, differing skillsets and knowledge.
The sister organisations of MYD like Powershift Malaysia, Kem Solusi etc also made their introductions at the camp in case participants were interested in other aspects of environmentalism and wanted to join those initiatives.
By Lhavanya Dharmalingam
Photo credits to Powershift Malaysia, Diyana Ibrahim and Jolene Tan