Empowering Young Voices: Teen Parliament Drives Climate Advocacy in Mongolia
Children and youth call to save energy and promote clean technology
UNICEF Leads Youth Initiative
In 2021, UNICEF and the Parliament of Mongolia launched the Teen Parliament initiative, aiming to inspire and empower children and adolescents across the country to become environmental and climate champions.
Every year, this program offers a unique opportunity to 90 school children and adolescents aged 15-17. Through workshops, lectures, meetings with industry experts, academics, and social influencers, as well as visits to various institutions, participants learn about climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more. Furthermore, they actively engage in voluntary community activities, and social events, and initiate projects within their own communities.
The focus of this 2023 Teen Parliament program focused on SDG7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Its goal was to educate young people about energy consumption, and clean technology, and raise awareness about the harmful impacts of coal burning on global warming and public health. Additionally, the program aimed to support youth-led actions at the sub-national level.
We've been taught how to wash our hands since kindergarten, but energy-saving practices like switching off lights are often neglected. It should become a norm in our daily lives. We proposed including such actions in the plan.
Energy-themed Teen Parliament
Starting in September 2022, participants from Ulaanbaatar and the provinces attended online training sessions for six weeks. They also had the opportunity to visit power plants and renewable energy sites in Ulaanbaatar and Tuv province, gaining valuable hands-on experience in energy generation and transmission.
Reflecting on their visit to the Combined Heat and Power Plant, E. Dulguuntamir, a Teen Parliament member from Dornogovi province [located 230 km from the capital city], shared, "We were amazed to learn about the tireless efforts of the dedicated workforce that provides us with electricity 24/7, bringing comfort to our homes. We discovered many simple ways to save this precious resource: energy."
The Teen Parliament participants formed teams and conducted training on energy production, consumption, and savings. They actively raised awareness about global warming and its impact on health, reaching out to over 5,000 children and teenagers. As part of their advocacy efforts, the teams prepared informative boards on energy consumption and saving. They shared online resources on "Simple Ways to Save Energy" and encouraged training participants to spread the word about energy conservation among their classmates, teachers, and families.
Furthermore, the Teen Parliament members visited 114 companies and organizations to understand their electricity and heat consumption patterns. They explored how these companies integrated environmental concerns into their business strategies and corporate social responsibility goals. To spread their message on energy savings, they also created bulletin boards, placing them in 170 busy areas nationwide.
The National Forum
In May 2023, the "Teen Parliament" National Forum brought together all participants in the capital city for the initiative's final stage. The forum was jointly organized by the Sub-Standing Committee on Sustainable Development Goals of the Parliament, The Office of the Parliament, the Parliament Research and Training Institute, and the Scout Association of Mongolia.
During the three-day forum, Teen Parliament members engaged in lively discussions regarding the National Adaptation Plan, proposed actions focused on children and youth, and energy-related issues. They had the unique opportunity to directly converse with Parliament and Government members of Mongolia.
Highlighting the importance of energy savings from an early age, L. Javkhlantugs from Dornod province [ located 630 km from Ulaanbaatar] expressed, "We've been taught how to wash our hands since kindergarten, but energy-saving practices like switching off lights are often neglected. It should become a norm in our daily lives. We proposed including such actions in the plan."
At the National Forum held at the Government House of Mongolia, Mrs. Kh. Bulgantuya, a Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the SDG Sub-committee, along with the Minister of Labour and Social Protection, commended the young parliamentarians. They emphasized the importance of youth participation, leadership against climate change, and the goal of nurturing competitive global citizens.
‘Two years ago, the idea of a Teen parliament was born during a discussion with UNICEF colleagues. At the time we were not sure whether it would become successful. Our objective was to support future leaders, innovators, and solution-seekers. I believe we are on the right track” said Mrs Bulgantuya.
Mr. Evariste Kouassi-Komlan, UNICEF Representative in Mongolia, expressed his satisfaction with the programme, stating, "It's crucial that every child and young person has the opportunity to voice their opinions at the parliamentary level through such initiatives. You have gained knowledge, advocated, initiated discussions, and most importantly, inspired your peers, friends, families, and communities to save energy and protect our environment. I hope this program has inspired you to make a change in your own lives and continue sharing your knowledge and experiences within your communities."
The National Forum continued with parliamentary-style sessions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Divided into three groups — the Standing Committee on Environment, Food and Agriculture, the Standing Committee on Social Policy, Education, Culture, and Science, and the Standing Committee on Budget — the Teen Parliament members engaged in interactive discussions on energy-related issues. They addressed topics such as coal burning for heating schools and kindergartens, its impact on climate and health, and the integration of climate and energy education into school curricula. The Teen Parliament members also put forth proposals and recommendations to be submitted to the Parliament of Mongolia.
Their proposals included including youth voices in the decision-making process of the Citizens' Representative Council, supporting voluntary activities to encourage youth participation, and organizing Youth Parliaments at the local level. Additionally, they stressed the importance of decision-makers at all levels understanding the energy needs of children and adolescents. They also emphasized the correlation between this issue and children's environmental rights, while advocating for the participation of children and adolescents in the decision-making process.
By increasing awareness, providing knowledge, empowering children and youth, and facilitating collaboration in policy advocacy and solutions, the initiative has contributed to advancing children's rights to a safe and clean environment, as reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.