Amplifying African Youth Voices in Climate Negotiations: A Step Towards Inclusive Change

Young people’s voices play a pivotal role in advancing just climate ambition and driving systemic change in climate decision-making. Hence their potential to reshape the discourse on climate action and propel meaningful progress is immeasurable. According to the UN, young people are key drivers of development, social change, economic growth, innovation, and environmental protection. In Africa, the youth are spearheading initiatives at the grassroots level, engaging with vulnerable communities, taking climate action, and inspiring the world with their energy, creativity, and capacity to challenge the status quo. However, a disconnect persists between local actions and the presence of youths in decision-making arenas where policies are shaped to align with grassroots realities and priorities, or where their experiences are translated into concrete sustainable development policies.

Discrepancy in Representation:

With first-hand experience at the Conference of Parties (COPs), within the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification  and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, these experiences have highlighted a stark contrast. While developed countries like the US often boast delegations of over 50 negotiators and experts, some African nations are represented by single-digit delegations tasked with crucial responsibilities. This disparity in delegation size directly affects equity in negotiations and visibility (Martinez 2019).

According to the Carbon Brief, African country delegations have on average increased in size in successive COP events. While this trend is promising, it should be accompanied by inclusive composition to ensure that no stakeholder is left behind—particularly the youth, who constitute a critical demographic-more than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25 (WEF, 2022). Empowering and involving African youth in these spaces is pivotal to bridging this gap and amplifying African voices on the global stage.

Progress and Challenges:

A handful of African countries, such as Tunisia, and organizations like the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES) in the recent past have implemented youth negotiators programs. Furthermore, certain governments and entities in Africa have provided opportunities for youths to attend COP sessions, facilitating their active participation in crucial dialogues. However, there is still considerable room for progress to ensure meaningful representation of African youth in both regional and global climate negotiations.

In light of these challenges, the Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) with funding support from the Network for Social Change UK, has collaborated with the Youth Negotiators Academy (YNA) and their flagship project the Climate Youth Negotiator Programme (CYNP) to identify cursios and motivated young African leaders. They participate in a six-month hybrid climate negotiation capacity-building training to equip African youth with the necessary skills and knowledge to actively engage in future UNFCCC meetings and other global initiatives, fostering sustainable solutions to environmental degradation and climate change.

Collaboration and Progress:

To further AYICC’s overarching mission, the team has also partnered with CYNP and AGNES—a not-for-profit think tank of African experts and practitioners providing evidence-based technical support to African governments and the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) to bring together 21 young people for a physical week long training on climate diplomacy in Nairobi, Kenya as a prelude to the Africa Youth Climate Assembly, the African Climate Week and the African Climate Summit scheduled for September 1-8, 2023. This arrangement enables participants to actively engage in these pivotal events. 


The collaborative efforts of organizations like AYICC and CYNP, along with support from AGNES, are a significant stride towards addressing the underrepresentation of African youth in climate negotiations. By providing comprehensive training and exposure, this initiative contributes to a more inclusive global climate dialogue, allowing African youth to contribute their perspectives, expertise, and enthusiasm to catalyze transformative change on a wider scale.


African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) is an umbrella network for African-based youth organizations, university groups, rural youth groups, schools, and individuals. AYICC aims to develop capacity and build strong partnerships among African youth to undertake action against the impacts of climate change for both present and future generations. AYICC’s overall mission is to ensure that African youth are equipped with the right skills and knowledge to participate in future UNFCCC meetings and other global initiatives for sustainable solutions to environmental degradation and climate change. In addition, AYICC strives to encourage and motivate action at the grassroots level. AYICC’s Vision – An African continent with an empowered and united youth movement, proactively involved in the decision-making process and the adoption of sustainable options towards a better climate and social equity.

About CNYP

The Youth Negotiators Academy (YNA) is a global intergenerational programme (delivered by the Future Leaders Network) aimed at redressing this systemic inequality of youth leadership in international negotiations and decision-making. Its first initiative, the Climate Youth Negotiator Programme (CYNP), aims to enable and empower the next generation of climate negotiators by equipping young leaders with the skills, knowledge, community, networks and resources to deliver transformative change in negotiations.


AGNES is a not-for-profit think tank of African experts and practitioners that provides evidence-based knowledge to inform a common African position in climate change negotiations. AGNES facilitates the exchange of ideas between experts and negotiators at the international level, especially within the UNFCCC framework. AGNES focuses on: a) Strengthening the technical capacities of African experts, institutions, and governments to enhance their effective participation and influence in national, regional, and global policy processes and decision-making; b) Strengthening capacities of governments to mainstream gender and climate change into international and sub-national policies and actions; c) Building partnerships and communities of practice to enhance cross-regional sharing of experiences, best practices, and expertise to stimulate climate policy and actions across the continent; d) Generating, collating, and disseminating new knowledge on the interface between climate change and African economies and societies to enhance evidence-based climate response; e) Enhancing generation and collation of scientific evidence and its use to inform climate change policy and decision-making at global, regional, national and subnational levels.

About Network for Social Change UK

The Network for Social Change is a group of individuals providing funding for progressive social change, particularly in the areas of justice, peace and the environment.


We express our profound gratitude to Ms. Susan Seymour of the Network for Social Change UK and Ms. Winnie Asiti of Global GreenGrants Fund for believing in us and as midwives who enabled us to birth this novel programme, The CNYP team led by Ms. Marie-Claire Graf, Dr. George Wamukoya of AGNES Africa and the entire team at AGNES and finally, all AYICCers who made this a success. 

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