COYnnecting and COYllecting

After three amazing days, COY13 came to a close. The 13th Conference of Youth, which took place from 2-4 November, serves as the annual pre-COP conference. This year’s conference saw 1,300 participants from 123 countries descend onto the sleepy city of Bonn. Since MYD 2015, there has been a mandate for Malaysian Youth Delegates to attend COY before each COP. Over the course of the past three days, I definitely saw the benefit to attending COY before starting our COP journey.

COYllaorating

I must admit that the pun “COYnnecting” is not an original one. The organizers of the conference used it as one of their official hashtags; I’m merely borrowing it and adapting it for “COYllecting”. With the presence of over a thousand youths from all across the globe, the COY venue, for three days, was transformed into the ultimate playground for like-minded, passionate, hungry and determined young people to teach, learn, and share their ideas and opinions on the topic of climate change.

Across the three days, there were over 200 talks, workshops and discussion sessions. These sessions were hosted to not just prepare youths for the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP23), but also to serve as a platform for young people to connect with other like-minded youth to share case studies, their work and even collect ideas to bring back to their respective countries. Azam, Jasmin, Lhavanya, Syaqil, Xiandi and myself from MYD attended COY, and I’m sure we were able to both contribute and collect thoughts and ideas from the sessions.

Fijians had a big presence at this year’s COY, considering their presidency at COP23

The mandate for MYD members to attend COY, is a necessary and justified one. Yes, our goal here in Bonn is to track UNFCCC negotiations at COP, but we need to remember that we’re not alone in our objective for promoting climate action and climate policy. There are hundreds of other young people from around the world who want the same thing as us, and connecting with them over the three days definitely helped in a few different ways:

  • Networking and connecting with like-minded people from different parts of the world
  • Collecting stories, experiences, case studies, plans, ideas and solutions that may be useful to local initiatives
  • Participating in an honest, inclusive and constructive dialogue with the goal of pushing forward the conversation of climate action

Some sessions at COY13 consisted of presentations and talks that prepared youths attending the COP, running through crash courses on the processes as well as working groups within the UNFCCC, such as the Training on International Climate Negotiations hosted by CliMates. Other sessions were more about sharing the different challenges faced by youths concerned about climate change and what they are doing about it to come to a solution, such as the How to Negotiate for Your Values in a Local Community? workshop.

Appropriately illustrating the spirit at COY13

While I use the team playground for like-minded youths metaphorically, it really did feel like one. As I walked the halls of the school that served as the venue for the conference, I definitely felt that the vibe was a youthful and collaborative one. In reference to the title of this article, COY truly shines when the attendees organically do what the conference was built for – connecting with one another, and collecting ideas and stories. I feel that for any youth attending COP, it is absolutely necessary to join COY. It gives an appropriate amount of preparation for COP, while in an amazing one-of-a-kind environment.

Before COY I understood the importance of youth involvement in the climate change conversation. It wasn’t until after COY did I see it in action. The passion, hunger, intelligence and capabilities shown by the youth of the world in just three days gave me hope and even more drive to push the youth voice along. Power is currently in the hands of a completely different group of people, who may not care for the climate as much as we do. So until we are old enough to become decision-makers, we need to speak up and ensure our voices are continued to be heard.

Written by Mike

Edited by Varun

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