What is young and youth participation?
The United Nations SDG’s identified the youths and children as one of the nine major groups of civil society in her agenda 21 with the right and responsibility to participate in sustainable development goals. Interestingly, in the global north more youths are championing the cause of Climate crisis, the likes of Greta Thunberg. They realized that the present shapes the future and the future belongs to them. At her International Children’s Emergency convention, the right to participate in decision-making processes was pegged at age 18.
Young and youth participation is that process by which the young and youths become actively involved in the research, decision making, and actions on climate related issues. They have participatory franchise, an ownership mentality as stakeholders in the fortunes of the planet. The young in the global south (e.g Nigeria) are yet to step-in fully and embrace this right.
What are the challenges?
The young and youth constitute the majority of the population in Nigeria (62.26%) and have the innate ability of exploring the environment with the modern science and technologies. This has led to their increasingly strong social and environmental awareness, giving them the power of transforming our societies towards a low-carbon and climate resilient future. But this power is either under-utilized or not used at all, primarily due to non-inclusion of the young and the youth in decision and policy making of environmental issues and inadequate sensitization on the relevance of the power.
The United Nations framework Convention on climate change, through its article 6 on Education, Training and Public Awareness, calls on governments to implement educational training programs on climate change to educate, empower and engage all stakeholders. Despite all the efforts of the United Nation and other agencies through the Joint Framework Initiative (on children, youth and climate change) which aims at empowering youth towards taking adaption and mitigation action and enhance effective participation in climate change policy decision-making processes, developing countries like Nigeria are yet to give the maximum support to many young and youth organizations that are willing to create a safe environment for all. In addition, National policies in the country are insufficient in addressing the engagement and education of the youth in climate changes issues.
What are the ways forward?
As the impact of climate change intensifies, over time, it’s the youths of today that will face the worst of its effect. Consequently, every means and energy should be employed to get the youths actively involved in the climate research and actions. If the youths; the population that will guarantee sustainability of climate actions will succeed, they need to be well informed and actively involved in decision-making processes. In line with this, the government needs to adequately educate the young and youths and provide opportunities for them to become informed and active citizens.
To assist the government, Nigerian Consortium on Eco-social Health Research has been committed to collaborating with the young people and the youths in Nigeria in raising their voices, creating opportunity for their participation in climate change discuss and decision-making processes and assisting them in taking action to protect the climate crisis in Nigeria. NCEHR also provides the platform for young advocates to offer inspiring and original insights in other issues that matters to them with the aim of protecting our mother earth and reducing impact of climate changes on health.