Southern youth voices at the frontline of climate change

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 10:24

December 2015 is a critical moment for the world! Will we be able to save ourselves from the point of no return or will we continue as we are - people losing their livelihoods, homes and lives to climate change?

We are six young activists from Brazil, The Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria and Zimbabwe who made our way to Paris to ensure the voices of young people being impacted by climate change were shared! We wanted the world to know that climate change is a life and death reality, not something that will happen in the future and to share our demands for the climate talks!

  1. A global goal on adaptation,
  2. Commitment of international public finance of at least $100 billion a year by 2020 from rich to poor countries,
  3. The issue of Loss & Damage must be recognised and addressed as a separate issue from adaptation
  4. Does not threaten land, agriculture and small-scale farmers

COY 11

Our first stop was the Conference of Youth (COY11) where over 5000 youth came from around the world. We raised awareness of our demands, interacted and networked with people and organisations attending the conference as well as those visiting our stall, where we shared the ActionAid climate justice demands as well as our own stories of impact.

One thing we soon realised was that COY11 participation was mainly young people from the North. We were among the few representing southern youth voices and we used this as an opportunity to ensure a southern perspective was included in the COY Manifesto which will be shared with all the negotiators in COP21.

At our workshop “Southern youth voices at the frontline of climate change” we shared our personal stories of how we are directly affected by climate change. Young people, especially from the North acknowledged having a clearer understanding of what climate change really is after the discussions and emotions were high!

You can read Rafaela’s story:

Human Chain

Thousands of activists from around the world joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire in Paris on the 29th November 2015.

After the tragic attacks  of 13th November 2015 the French Authorities banned all public rallies and demonstrations, including the planned Paris Climate March. The human chain was a last minute alternative suggested by the members of the Climate Coalition 21 which we were part of. We joined hands against climate injustice and violence, in solidarity with people affected all over the world. This set the stage for more creative and powerful ways in which civil societies continued to mobilize throughout the weeks as the climate talks unfolded in Paris.

Together with PSO Actionaid France, we chanted  our slogan “What do you want - Climate Justice; When do you want it  - Now” and of course….. “People Power!!”

On the same day, hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in climate marches worldwide, with a clear message for world leaders: keep fossil fuels in the ground, finance a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy, a global policy on adaptation, pay for loss and damages among others.

Biking and lobby tours

We cycled around Paris’ famous sites including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame where we were able to share our messages on climate injustice with many tourists…. and a few armed police! While cycling on the street we drew the attention of local people by the messages on our bicycles and t shirts!

The lobby Tour was an amazing event in which we went to the streets where big multinational corporations in France are located. The tour was an opportunity to inform the companies and general public of the “good” work they are doing in polluting the world. Later that day they will be featured in the Pinocchio awards where the winner of best climate criminal will be announced. Some of the companies we visited were; Total ENGIE, BNP PARIBAS, EDF, and YARA. Saiba from The Gambia took time to talk to press at the tour on the performance of these companies in his community. Watch his speech here!

Pinocchio Awards  

The Pinocchio awards targeted multinational companies whose activities have a direct impact on communities around the world, and whose influence, through lobbying, promoting false solutions or greenwashing weakens or destroys climate policies, or undermines action on climate change. It was a fun and light hearted event and was even attended by some angels from heaven who were also outraged by the activities of these companies in destroying the climate. The local impact category was won by BNP, the greenwashing category by EDF and the lobby category was won by Chevron. At the end of the ceremony Adekunle from Nigeria had a good time with the angels and one of the key speaker Nnimmo Bassey also from Nigeria.

Our session at People’s summit

The summit brought together people from across the world attending different climate change sessions at Jean Jaures school. We co-facilitated our session with Sustaining All Life where we shared our experiences on how we have been affected by climate change using their methodology of peer to peer listening and learning with each other.

This gave the participants an opportunity to understand the impacts caused by climate change. We were able to also listen to people from the north on how they felt about our stories.The exercise gave every individual time to talk and reflect on any experiences in their lives. We all need to be listened to, thus the session made this possible.

Circle of resistance

This was on the streets of the Village of alternatives  on 5th December for anyone who wanted to testify and relate her or his own experience about climate change and violence that he or she suffered. We shared our stories and we also heard from migrants and undocumented people living in France

The idea was, for us to very freely and spontaneously relate our own experience about how climate change has affected us and our community.  Saiba from the Gambia spoke about the relationship between climate change and its impact on communities in developing countries on youth migration.

Building Alliances

Climate Justice Network is a coalition of networks and organizations campaigning for climate justice. We joined their session to talk about impact of climate change on access to food, land and water. Five different speakers from the South led the discussion, Adekunle spoke on the impact on Nigeria, the four other speakers were from Philippines, India, Australia and Indonesia. After the session the key issue that is common to all the five countries is that climate change has taken away the means of livelihood and survival of majority of the population in these countries. Afterwards we discussed the need to keep planning a series of actions in order to put pressure on the negotiators at COP21 so that even if they do not do the  best, we can prevent them from doing the worst. But if we  fold our hands the worst may happen which is going to have adverse effects on the developing countries!

When we get back to our countries, we will make sure we keep fighting for climate justice by connecting up with other climate justice groups both nationally and regionally and ensuring our voices continue to be heard!

Please make sure you continue to follow @activista and #youthdiscuss for regular updates on our work!


This blog has been contributed to by; Adekunle Akinola, Nigeria; Ngone Ngom, Senegal; Wadzanai Mudzongo, Zimbabwe; Saiba T. Suso, The Gambia and Rafaela Borges, Brazil, Jessica Barbosa,  Grace Atuhaire and Catherine Rodgers