Empowerment of youth for long-term climate resilience

November 20, 2023

Youth play a key role in sustainable development of a country. From economic development to social integration and stability, as well as environmental conservation, youth continue to take key steps to contribute to creating change. With the impacts of climate change being a daily experience across the world, long-term resilience to face these impacts has become a key need. And youth can be the key to creating this change. 

Capacity building and empowerment

While youth are considered one of the vulnerable groups to climate impacts, they are also identified as champions for change. Across the world, many youth are leading the way in climate action, and calling for scaled up commitments as nations, as well as individuals to create an impact which will address the impacts of climate change. 

From individual actions to collective actions through organisations focused on youth, climate change and resilience building, youth are a key stakeholder in generating solutions to climate impacts. However, technical capacity building of youth could ensure further that their climate action could be more robust, where innovation and science could be interlinked to generate scaled up resilience. 

This includes capacity building at local, national and global levels on existing climate science, technical knowledge, information related to technical aspects and global climate processes, as well as capacities on mobilizing youth for implementing climate action at all levels. 

Technical capacity, avenues to access resources for implementing climate action, opportunities for mentorship and guidance could help contribute to empower youth, and create inter-generational activities for building long term resilience. 

Inclusion, participation and accessing information

While empowered youth are key to create change, it is also important that there are inclusive processes and avenues for participation on decision making processes. Youth inclusion in decision making processes; inputs being gathered and youth being provided space in stakeholder engagement need to conscious efforts to ensure that there are avenues for sharing the youth perspective to policy, planning and implementation related to climate change. 

Some countries consider youth to be a key stakeholder in the decision making processes which strengthens the ability for youth to better engage at local, national and global level. In Sri Lanka, one entry point to build youth participation is the National Youth Services Act No 69 of 1979 of which section 4 provides under the objectives of the Council to enlist the participation of youth in national development schemes; and to provide opportunities for the participation of youth in the formulation and implementation of policy. It is important to build on examples that enhance youth participation and ensure that youth are equipped to contribute to processes effectively and make informed decision. 

In addition to the capacity building, access to information is also crucial for better engagement of the public. Under the Action for Climate Empowerment focus under the UN Climate Change process both public participation and access to information form part of the 6 focus areas, which includes education and training; public awareness; public participation; public access to information; international cooperation. 

Among other key laws that could contribute to Action to Climate Empowerment in Sri Lanka are National Education Commission Act, No. 19 of 1991 focuses on educational policy “with a view to ensuring continuity in educational policy as well as enabling the education system to respond to changing needs in society, which could include the urgent need to address adverse impacts of climate change. 

Entrepreneurship and climate-friendly livelihoods

Building long term resilience consists of also economic empowerment. In generating economic resources, it is also equally important that these opportunities are not adverse to the planet. Ethical, sustainable and climate-friendly entrepreneurship could be a valuable step towards building climate resilience. 

Through inclusive, participatory and gender-responsive approaches, actions could be taken to provide opportunities for youth to enhance their economic capacities, through entrepreneurship that is climate-friendly and contributing to generating positive societal impact. So as to facilitate such change, it would be important to focus on capacity building, training, as well as creating avenues for youth to build innovative and sustainable entrepreneurship and livelihoods. And to this end, multi-stakeholder processes could help, and integration of youth as a key focus in such initiatives will provide opportunities for youth empowerment and resilience building at all levels. 

Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.

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About the Author
Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level. Vositha is a member of the national expert committee on climate change adaptation of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, national expert on vulnerability and adaptation measures for the Third National Communication of Sri Lanka to the UNFCCC for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and is a delegate focusing on compliance, adaptation, loss and damage, and gender for the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNFCCC since 2016. She is also a consultant to the UNFCCC national adaptation plans and policy unit, and worked as a country support consultant to the UNDP NAP Global Support Programme. Vositha has an LLM in public international law from University College London, and an LLB from University of London. ‍