In 1992, countries gathered in Rio de Janero for “The Earth Summit”, where the three “Rio Conventions” open for signature:

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Youth Participation in UNFCCC Processes

Youth participation in the UNFCCC has taken place via the annual Conference of Parties (COP), and inter-sessionals (the intersessional meetings of Subsidiary Bodies of the UNFCCC, called the SBs).

Young people around the world are actively engaged in the effort to address climate change, leading and participating in a multitude of initiatives at the local, sub-national, national, and international levels. Their strong commitment to working on this issue has also motivated them to participate at international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Participation in the UNFCCC allows these youth to raise their concerns on the climate crisis, including both the current impacts of climate change affecting front-line communities and the expected impacts it will have on young and future generations. It also serves as an opportunity to provide their inputs and perspectives into the process. Furthermore, they can hold their governments accountable for their commitments to climate action (or lack thereof) by observing the international climate negotiations.

Until 2009, youth participated under the broader self-organised umbrella International Youth Climate Movement (IYCM), as a part of which they engaged in the negotiations via their observer organisations, engaged in lobbying on policy fronts, and carried out actions. The participation has steadily grown over the years, but also suffered from lack of participation of youth from countries of the Global South, owing primarily to the lack of financial resources.

Lack of financial resources, as also highlighted in the Principles of Barriers of Meaningful Engagement continues to be a major hindrance for effective participation of youth in intergovernmental processes – given the nature of this target group. 

Formalisation of YOUNGO as an observer constituency to UNFCCC
In 2009, there was a general intention within the youth constituents, and also from the perspective of the UNFCCC Secretariat to formalise the participation of youth at UNFCCC. This led to about a one year long process of setting up the youth as an observer constituency to UNFCCC.

While UNFCCC is a party to the process, it is to be highlighted that the design of the internal structure of YOUNGO was completely self-organised and youth-led. The then members of youth movement then conducted outreach – both within and outside the existing networks – so as to reach various youth NGOs globally, set up the communication channels for YOUNGO, developed elements of structure: Focal Points, the Bottom Lining Team, Working Groups, etc.