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African Youth Call for more Justice in Critical Climate Change Negotiations Kicking off in Durban

By United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, November 29, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Young delegates representing all of Africa's sub regions gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss and consolidate their position called upon the leaders of the World to deliver an outcome that would ensure climate, ecological, economical and gender justice at the 17th Climate Change Conference in Durban.

During their discussions at the three-day landmark summit, the Africa Youth acknowledged that Climate change impacts threaten Africa's food security, health, lands, seeds, rights, natural resources and livelihoods. It also presents imminent discrimination and violence against women and other vulnerable groups via forced migrations, loss of natural resources, and therefore the basis for their survival.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the consequences of global warming are likely to be more severe in Africa. The World Meteorological Organization recently reaffirmed that African countries are already suffering major levels of warming and effects in terms of drought and other extreme weather events.

The Youth specifically discussed how they could influence policies that ensure that consumers are more carbon conscious and embrace more sustainable lifestyles; opportunities for green job creation; how to make worthwhile energy efficient choices; and the power of social networking to mobilizing communities and awaken world leaders towards more effective sustainable development options.

The principal challenge affecting the youth is unemployment and under-employment, despite the fact that their professional skills and qualifications are on the rise.

In their Statement at the end of their deliberation, African Youth recognized that the unemployment predicament can be tackled by a green economy which can generate more and better jobs that would contribute to an acceleration of sustainable development.

They call on their leaders to set the conditions that will be mutually beneficial for the creation of green and decent jobs, and allow the Youth to take advantage of the broad spectrum of green jobs

Their Statement builds on the Bandung Declaration adopted at the UNEP Tunza International Children and Youth Conference that was held from 27 September to 1 October 2011 in Indonesia, and on the Inaugural Generation Earth Youth Summit on Climate Change, which took place in Johannesburg in October 2011.

Africa's youth remains the continent's most important resource and have the potential to play a major and effective part in overcoming the many challenges that are slowing down Sustainable development in Africa. But in order to tap into this potential, the youth must be informed and empowered so that they can participate in decision-making and implementation of those decisions. Youth must also be empowered to protect, preserve and sustain the ecosystems whose services power life on earth.

The young delegates recognized that education is the cornerstone of human existence. Capacity building at all levels is of key importance and the capacity of young people should be built accordingly so that they can play their part in auditing and implementing policies that are related to sustainable development.

Even as they are empowered, young people must learn to spot and seize opportunities, particularly those that are to be found in the green economy. They therefore call on governments to develop both formal and informal educational infrastructure widening the scope of access to learning.

The Regional Director of UNEP in Africa, Mounkaila Goumandakoye said: “There is still a long and challenging way to go if we want to live up to the values and principles of sustainable development and make them a reality. Taking one step beyond the deadlocks which we face in many areas, we will need to learn how to listen to each other, to integrate views and interests to come to practical solutions. We are delighted that African youth can clearly identify these challenges and propose strategic and collaborative action that address their individual, local, national and continental plight and help Africa walk purposely through the sustainable development path. ”

The Statement of the African Youth also lays out their commitments:

• Lobby their governments to make Climate change issues and Rio+20 Earth Summit a top priority.

• Adopt more sustainable lifestyles and reduce their ecological footprints.

• Educate their communities and raise awareness about sustainable production and consumption.

• Contribute to the global, regional and national discussions on sustainable development.

The Africa Youth Statement will be presented to the African Ministers of Environment at their consultative meeting, which will be held from 4-5 December 2011 in Durban, under the auspices of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) with the recommendation to ensure that the concerns of Africa's youth are brought at the highest level of climate change debates.

Note to editors

In addition to the Statement, the Tunza Generation Earth Summit developed a set key follow-up actions to be undertaken as a result of the UNFCCC COP 17 and in the lead up to Rio +20a. In this regard a road map to RIO +20 for Africa Youth is being finalized.

The TUNZA – Generation Earth Summit was jointly organized by UNEP's Tunza Programme and Generation Earth, with the official endorsement by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs. The conference was funded by BAYER, under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Partnership for Youth and Environment.

The Africa Youth Summit, which also accounted for the annual regional Tunza African Youth Environmental Network (AYEN) brought together 45 delegates including 25 regional participants as well as 20 South African delegates. Countries participating in these discussions included Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, Togo, Rwanda, Niger, The DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Mauritania, Sudan and Cameroon, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar.