Youth engagement at COPs

How can youth and in particular Swiss Youth for Climate's delegates be engaged in these international events?


COPs are organized by the United Nations, a governmental driven process meaning only governments can take decisions, but we can join as observers as part of the civil society.
In the UNFCCC process observers have formed themselves into nine loose groups with diverse but broadly clustered interests or perspectives, called constituencies. 

We have been engaged in various constituencies (see below the existing UN constituencies) but mostly in YOUNGO (= official youth constituency of the UNFCCC for Youth NGOs). Constituencies are important as they are the formal entry point of our views. Furthermore they also allow us to write submissions, to give interventions and to meet high level people such as the Executive Director of the UNFCCC: Patricia Espinosa.
Previous to COP our members who participate invest a few days to meet and prepare at best to deal with the international scene. In the pic you can see a sneak peak of our COP24 delegates preparing to leave for Poland back in 2018.

The nine constituencies are: 

  • Business and industry NGOs (BINGO)
  • Environmental NGOs (ENGO)
  • Farmers
  • Indigenous peoples organizations (IPO)
  • Local government and municipal authorities (LGMA)
  • Research and independent NGOs (RINGO)
  • Trade union NGOs (TUNGO)
  • Women and Gender
  • Youth NGOs (YOUNGO)

Why get engaged? And what is the actual power of youth in these conferences?
SYFC delegates have been taking part in COPs since COP21 in Paris back in 2015. Year after year our delegates joined big names in the international scene as observers till COP24 where we had the honor to be represented in the official Swiss delegation as civil society. Marine, our representor in the Swiss delegation was not a formal negotiator, however she got “elected” as a formal representative of the civil society. Her role was to advise, support and share the opinion of the “Swiss folk” during the negotiations.

Last year, at COP25, we had the pleasure to be represented by Marie-Claire Graf, who got appointed by the Swiss federal council as a member of the official federal Swiss delegation to negotiate on behalf of Switzerland.
What does this mean? Unlike Marine, which served as a representative, Marie-Claire was an official negotiator leading the discussion on Action for Climate Empowerment as well as Capacity Building and was assisting the negotiations on Technology Transfer and Gender related matters. This powerful position was for the first time accounted to such a young person in the Swiss delegation!

During COP25 our Vice President Marie-Claire got elected and has since been serving together with @heeta_lakhani from India as Global Focal Points of YOUNGO.

What’s a “Global Focal Point”?
Focal Points are the liaisons between the youngs from YOUNGO and the UNFCCC. They work as moderators, collect the inputs from youths all around the world and engage in translating them into proposals to the UNFCCC and the UN delegates. 
Normally the Global Focal Points serve for one year and new pioneers get elected during each COP. However, due to the corona pandemic, COP26 got postponed and with it their mandate got extended for another year making them the focal points in charge for the longest mandate ever.