The Paris Climate negotiations in 2015 set out an agenda to mitigate the effects of man-made climate change by keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees centigrade. The talks brought together luminaries, experts, politicians, and civil society from around the world. But for Africa, one of the most important stakeholder groups did not have a seat at the table: the youth.
The African continent is young. This is especially true for Ethiopia, where over 65% of the population are under 25 years. However, the youth is rarely officially represented at environmental or climate negotiations of any kind. Government delegates tend to be older and experienced, traits that are extremely helpful during tough political negotiations. However, with so much of Africa under the age of 25, it is important that African youth are fairly and justly represented. For the youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the engine of the economies today and their nations’ greatest assets.
To this end, the German Embassy in Addis Ababa, the University of Massachusetts Boston, the Youth Negotiation on Climate Change Convention, and the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center and Network (HoA-REC&N) partnered to bring international environmental negotiations to university students in Addis Ababa. With generous funding from the German Embassy, gracious hosting by HoA-REC&N, curriculum from UMass Boston, and student mobilization by the YNCCC, event coordinators J. Michael Denney (PhDc, UMass Boston) and Kalewongel Tesfaye prepared “Climate Generation”, the Regional Environmental Diplomacy Institute Youth Climate Negotiation 2017.
The purpose of this workshop was threefold. The first purpose was to train students in the processes of international negotiation by having them perform a simulated treaty negotiation. The second purpose was to have students write positions papers for Ethiopian youth on climate change, competing for the chance to have their paper appear at CoP23 in Bonn, Germany. The third purpose was the connect students with climate leaders in Ethiopia.
On the first day of the workshop, students heard from a panel of Ethiopian climate luminaries. The panelists fielded questions from the students and shared their insights into climate negotiations, economic development, and environmental sustainability. The attendees were:
Mulugeta Mengist (PhD) – Climate Advisor to the Prime Minister of EthiopiaJohnson Nkem (PhD) – Senior Climate Adaptation Expert (African Climate Policy Center, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa)Binyam Yakob – Ethiopian Climate Negotiator (Ministry of Environment)Abay Yimer – Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of GovernmentWondwossen Sintayehu – Former Ethiopian Environmental NegotiatorTaeyeon Kim – United Nations Environment Programme
On the second day, students negotiated a mock treaty on Lakes of International Significance in the Horn of Africa. They broke up into groups representing Horn countries and civil society and spent the whole day hammering out treaty details with help from student facilitators from YNCCC. They also had a brief Q&A session with James Wakiaga, Economic Advisor to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
On the third day, students learned about position paper writing and broke into small groups to begin their work. At the end of the day, German Ambassador to Ethiopia Brita Wagener led the closing ceremonies and presented the students and the student facilitators with their certificates of participation.
“Climate Generation” continues the work of the Center’s Regional Environmental Diplomacy Institute (REDI), a co-production of the Center, UMass Boston, and the HoA-REC&N. The last REDI was held at HoA-REC&N headquarters in January 2016, and the participants were officials from the Ethiopian Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.