It is their future that is at stake
Both youth voices and actions are vital in the process of advocating for adaptation when tackling the impacts of climate change. As a society, we need to look past the mass individualism and come together as a community, as one person may possess skills that another does not.
Greta Thunberg’s lone initiative, for example, has set in motion a set of events that have cascaded, one of which is the climate movement known as Fridays for Future. Before we address youth in policy and climate change adaptation, we need to first assess the barriers that the youth face in policy dialogues and policy-based adaptation and how they can be addressed.
If we are to quantify the barriers that youth face in trying to take part in policy dialogues, they can be summed up in four points.
Proper education for youth is necessary, as young people may have the drive/passion for participating in policy dialogues, but they lack the prior knowledge required to take part in it. Resulting in their energy being misguided in many scenarios.
Even though many youth have access to education they may not have the support from a proper institution. Albeit trying to take part in stakeholder meetings may gain them some foothold, the access they have may be due to an ulterior agenda. The youth are accepted into the discussion panel to meet certain criteria or quota, which may give them some form of access to a relevant platform but does not fully allow them to take part in active policy designs.
Lack of credibility
The youth lack the credibility to have their voices heard. If we are to address the previous two points, we need to allow the space where youth can undergo capacity development to form the necessary credentials and effectively engage.
Lack of finance
Financing has always been a struggle, even if youth may have the institutional backing to engage. Most of the financing or money is controlled by the governmental agencies or donor organizations, which requires the youth to jump through a lot of hoops to gain access to.
It is of high importance that donor organisations and governmental agencies start taking the concerns of youth when drafting policies, otherwise there is bound to be a gradual decrease in youth engagement when it comes to community development.
Given the current landscape, decisions are taken by the older cohort, although the implementation and groundwork are looked after by mostly those from younger generations. Steps need to be taken to allow young people to take initiatives in social ownership and social leadership.
We need to start pushing youth into community-based participation and community-based policy dialogues and allow for better youth engagement. After all it is the younger generations moving forward who will have to deal with the impacts of climate change and those whose futures are dependent on the decisions made today.
Shohail Bin Saifullah is working in the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) as a Project Associate, his research interest lies in understanding the internal migration of Bangladesh.