Environment and Climate Change

Climate ambassadors

© UNICEF/Brazil Stuart Campo 2012
Brazil: Children in Andavadoaka look at a globe while discussing the local and global impacts of community environmental decisions.

UNICEF’s approach to young people’s engagement retalated to climate change

Since 2009, UNICEF has been working with young people all over the world through the Climate Ambassador Programme, implemented in more than 20 countries. The Climate Ambassador Programme uses climate change as an overarching theme around which to engage children and young people in the organization’s core areas of work, from WASH to Health. From the work of the Belize office to incentivize community clean-ups through the Freshwater Cup football competition to the work of the South Africa office to empower school children to start initiatives at their school around waste, water, or community gardens, UNICEF and the young people it works with have shown the power of young people to build a sustainable future. This work began long before Rio+20 and will continue long after.

This local youth engagement is recognized by our partners and the UNCSD as a critical approach.  Not only are young people the generation who will be inheriting the results of these decisions, but they also have the right to participate in decision-making fora, to share their experiences and solutions with adult leaders, and engage in local-level adaptation initiatives in accordance with their rights to expression under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) General Comment 12.

At the same time, UNICEF recognizes that participation in decision-making goes far beyond showing up for an event or a speech at a global forum. Meaningful participation in sustainable development requires engaging young people in assessing community needs, developing community solutions, and feeding into decision-making at local, national, and international levels. Young people’s engagement does not begin or end at a global forum, but is an ongoing process.

Aligned with these values and with the UN “Future We Want” campaign for Rio+20, UNICEF, through Country Offices and civil society partners, has created child- and youth-led community active consultations, working with young people to identify and discuss the key elements of the future they – as future leaders and current critical stakeholders – want for their communities and how they plan to get there. UNICEF’s Adolescent Development & Participation unit developed a toolkit for these “Future We Want” consultations, available online at futurewewant.wordpress.com – available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

These processes have begun with community natural resource mapping, identifying how energy, water, waste, and food resources are currently being used in communities. Then, supported by trained facilitators, young people have discussed how current resource use affects them, and opportunities they see for change. The outcomes of these processes have been presented to the national government in Mozambique and to local decision makers in Madagascar, and used to create youth-led action plans in all areas.

While these outcomes will be showcased at Rio+20, their impact will go far beyond one event. The process of youth input into sustainable development decision making is an ongoing process at all levels, and will continue through UNICEF offices and our civil society partners. Most importantly, by engaging young people all over the world to engage with their local communities, their actions can and will continue as their projects start to change their communities and begin to build the “Future We Want” without waiting for global leaders to decide on that future for them.

In this way, UNICEF has been able to meaningfully engage global young people with the themes of a global event without requiring their travel to a given location and without relying on a single youth representative to speak on their behalf on a global stage.



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