At LearningPlanet Alliance, we believe that youth should always be at the centre of our work. As COP27 just ended a few days ago, we reached out to our Youth Fellows to collect their reactions. First, you may read Selma’s interview, a 21 year old activist, SDG advocate and volunteer work lover from Algeria. She is currently based in Beirut, Lebanon, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree at AUB.
Eva Papanikolaki, Mkyeku Kisanga, Rubaiya Binte Zobair, Sainath Manikandan and Tom Ogalo also shared their reactions to COP27 through short videos after closely following the discussions.
When did you become a Youth Fellow, and what does it mean exactly?
I became a Youth Fellow in 2022. This opportunity allows me to understand how youth from all over the world are making a change and taking action to tackle different global challenges, and build a space where youth can use it to better advocate for world crises and tackle them, too.
You participated in COP 27. Was it your first time there and how did you get there?
Yes, it was my first COP. I was excited for it, because I had already heard a lot about how youth are given the floor in many ways. First, on how they address their communities’ challenges and second, how they shed light on their proposals and recommendations that always prioritise humans and vulnerable communities over businesses and economies.
I was among the lucky youth to make it to COP27 and to become accredited, whereas many other climate activists were able to make it to Egypt, but struggled to get a badge. I hope it won’t be this way at COP28. We need to stop having barriers that prevent youth from being the voice of their communities.
I was able to be funded by an American NGO called EarthUprising, and I got a badge from CUNCR (THE CENTER OF UNITED NATIONS CONSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH).
What was your overall feeling about COP27? Could you share your main learnings?
I loved the Youth and Children pavilion; it was the most hectic, active pavilion in the entire venue. This fact only proves that youth leadership is really special, especially when it comes to simplifying global challenges for the next generations, who were inspired with our amazing work.
Some children were up until midnight, proudly watching us drafting statements for side events and negotiations. This proved that we are fighting for each other to secure a healthy future, where dreams will always have a place on the ground, no matter how hard the journey may seem.
I was happy that I witnessed two amazing pieces of news that shed light on the real youth contribution that turned drafted proposals into real actions. This is thanks to us being on the ground taking actions and noticing challenges. We figured out real solutions (like youth councils) that can fix the communication gap between decision makers and youth.
Why would we have to wait for every COP to meet with our decision makers, while we can do it in our council? This was also the same proposal we had in a private meeting, where only 25 climate activists from Africa were nominated to take part in with Africa Development bank managers and the Global Center of Adaptation.
They also approved our suggestion to have a council that will bring all youth together to underline the struggles of youth and citizens in our communities, especially the ones who have been constantly affected with this global concern. Having these two amazing achievements in the first week was already a good step, even though a lot was neglected in terms of implementation, organisation and logistics. Why is it that every time proposals and parts of statements are being rejected? Why are businesses and economics the first to discuss during negotiations?
What are your wishes for COP 28? What is one message you would like to share with global leaders?
We want everyone to be there; we are sick of seeing a lack of youth representation. I cannot speak on behalf of my colleagues in other regions, as I didn’t go through what they have experienced; we cannot address it well. We need to bring people who will underline the real struggles seen on the ground.
Climate change has so much impact on these overlooked communities. We want to give the mic to youth; we want to see them around. Why are there always the same obstacles and logistics that only they have to face? Our role is to represent each other and address the issues and the calamities affecting minorities; however, we have to stay professional and more related to the changemaking impact we are doing and the message we want to deliver.
We are the leaders of the future, and we need to be there supporting each other more than questioning what will delay us from taking real decisions that serve everyone in the world.
We need to inspire and prove that we can lead. I send a direct message to everyone that devotes time to serve each other and the planet: we need to take this seriously. We cannot show our anger in a way that mocks our image as activists. Even when we are right and we have good intentions, we need to keep in mind that we are there to act more than to talk because we have done enough talking and drafting.
We need everyone to be represented as we cannot speak on behalf of a community whom we only know from articles and statistics. We want all of us to be involved in decision and policy making, where our themes will be taken seriously and our proposals and solutions will be embraced and trusted.
Because eventually…trusting us is worth it…and we really can do this!
A huge thanks to the media and NGOs…thank you so much for doing this for the youth. We truly appreciate it. We have been sitting around for hours at COP listening, drafting and shedding light on our complaints and struggles. You are the reason we never get weak.
Watch Selma’s video sharing her experience at COP27
Meet Selma Bichbich
Selma is a social and climate youth activist who has taken part in many programmes and organisations seeking change and serving the SDGs by speaking out for youth and justice.
She is an SDSN Fellow, the contact point of the Human Rights Working Group at YOUNGO, the GST Communication Officer at SDG7 Youth Consistency, a board member and co-founder of the MENA Youth Network, the Founder of the Together for Blue and Green organisation, and a Max Thabiso Edkins Global Climate Ambassador.
The delegate of Algeria at the PreCop26 Youth4Climate Summit, an active member of UNEPMGCY, she is also the organiser of the first edition of the MENA Youth Environmental Assembly. In addition to being a member of the MENA Coalition on Youth, Peace, and Security.
As a representative of North Africa at the Global Youth Leadership Council at EarthUprising NGO, she has been given the opportunity to be funded to go to COP and to also start a green campaign in Lebanon as one of the AUB students. She was nominated to represent Africa at the Informal Regional Dialogues with UNFCCC Constituencies.