Empowering Youth for Climate Action Conference
(Sarajevo, November 6, 2023) The conference entitled "Youth and Mobility in the Context of Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities" held today in Sarajevo, focused on the pressing need for greater efforts to combat climate change in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a special emphasis on the crucial role of young people in shaping a climate-resilient future.
This event was jointly organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, under the auspices of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the aim to discuss the challenges and opportunities leading up to COP 28 (Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCCC), which will be hosted by the UAE in November and December 2023.
The Ambassador of Egypt in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yasser Abdelrahman Ali Sorour, reflected on the COP27 hosted by his country last year. "World leaders and climate scientists were not the only ones who gathered in Sharm El Sheikh; young people were also a significant part of the conference which recorded the largest number of participants, with 50,000 attendees, including 14,000 youth. The Egyptian COP27 Presidency prioritized youth involvement, through the creation of the first-ever youth-led climate forum, and the appointment of a Youth Envoy, Omnia El Omrani. This allowed young representatives to present the Global Youth Statement, emphasizing their role in addressing the climate crisis. The establishment of the Children and Youth Pavilion provided youth access to negotiations and networking. Despite these achievements, more effective participation of children and young people in decision-making processes is needed."
COP28 will mark a significant milestone, with the first Global Review of the Paris Agreement, a comprehensive assessment of progress towards climate goals and the identification of measures needed to bridge existing gaps.
The UEA Ambassador, Nabila AlShamsi, based in Montenegro, addressed the event via the Zoom platform and presented the four pillars of priorities of the upcoming UAE COP presidency: accelerating the energy transition, solving financing issues, focusing on people, lives and livelihoods, and insurance of full inclusiveness, which will guide the process for all parties to achieve a clear roadmap for accelerating progress through the global energy transition and an inclusive approach to climate action.
Building on the Youth Envoy initiative from COP27, the UAE has established the role of Youth Climate Champion to strengthen the work of youth-led or youth-focused organizations within the COP process. In this regard, H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of Community Development and Youth Climate Champion, the first in history with a ministerial role, sent an inspiring video message to the youth of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the participants of the conference, in which the influential role of youth in initiating change was emphasized.
In addition to thematic discussions, the conference provided a platform to discuss the climate ambitions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasizing the need for proactive measures in the fight against climate change. A delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina will also participate in COP28.
Saša Magazinović, a Member of the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Chairman of the Green Club, which gathers parliamentarians from all over the country, emphasized the urgency of climate action and thanked the UN and UN agencies for organizing this conference, as well as for the support they provide to Bosnia and Herzegovina in this area: "The fight against climate change is not sufficiently addressed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there are numerous reasons but no justifications for this. In addition to the good will that Bosnia and Herzegovina showed, as a signatory to many initiatives, international agreements, and conventions, implementation and concrete work are needed. It is also necessary to raise awareness about this issue so that the citizens themselves understand the importance and their role in it. Furthermore, the battle against climate change comes with a cost, as discussed in last year's COP and will be in COP28. Countries that are unable to finance these obligations on their own need support. The socio-economic consequences of the green transition can be very painful if we do not address them promptly. This is one of the EU's obligations for the country. I believe that climate change should be a vital national interest for the country and can serve as a unifying factor in our society."
Dr. Ingrid Macdonald, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reiterated the UN's commitment to addressing climate change and highlighted the importance of engaging young voices in climate-related matters: “This year represents the halfway point for achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 which have been committed to by Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yet, we face a world on the verge of a precipice. The UN Secretary-General has called a ‘code red for humanity’ as we struggle to retain hope with unprecedented inflation; an unparalleled climate emergency; the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945; rising discrimination and hate speech; backsliding of women’s rights; civic space under pressure and new technologies rapidly advancing. Young people are at the forefront of the fight for a sustainable future for Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the world. They are driving change, not just for tomorrow but for today. Youth are one of the most important stakeholders to prioritize, including at the decision-making table.”
Sylvain Merlen, UNDP's Resident Representative a.i. in Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasized the UNDP's deep involvement in supporting the country to fulfil its climate goals, which in cooperation and with the support of international and domestic partners, implements projects that promote clean energy, energy efficiency, renewable energy, disaster risk reduction, adaptation, and climate resilience, aligning with the vision of the Paris Agreement. He also informed that UNDP recently organized the first session of the Climate, Peace, and Security Experts Academy, in partnership with the Cairo International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding, building on a major innovation of COP27, which recognizes that climate is already a key driver of peace and security challenges, as well as of climate-induced migration, which need to be addressed through new mechanisms. The second session of this Academy will take place in Istanbul at the end November, to which youth are also invited, as their energy and the creativity is essential.
Laura Lungarotti, Chief of IOM Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Regional Coordinator for the Western Balkans, presented IOM's efforts to support young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to apply environmentally friendly solutions in addressing migration issues in the country. She also presented recently released IOM publication, contributing to the discussion on the nexus between migration, environment, and climate change. The paper examines the susceptibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina to wildfires, droughts, floods, water pollution, land degradation, and air pollution, documenting how these risks are interconnected and exploring their potential impact on migration and displacement.
The panel discussion featured youth activists, representatives from domestic institutions, Embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, international organizations, NGOs, and academia. It emphasized the imperative of involving young people in climate-related decision-making, recognizing their potential as agents of change and the essential role of continued education and participation in advancing the climate agenda. At the expert facilitated panels, around 30 youth representatives had opportunity to share their insights and ideas on climate-related topics, resulting in a set of youth messages to be delivered to COP28.