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Mapping Power Dynamics and Participation of Children and Youth in the Decision-making Processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 

Partially Supported by a NULab Seedling Grant.

Climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss interlock into a triple planetary crisis that demands global cooperation and innovative solutions engaging both state and non-state actors. Among the non-state actors that actively advocate for ambitious climate action, children and youth are the ones who are bringing much attention to intergenerational solidarity on the climate crisis in recent years. Thus, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has identified their voice as an essential inclusion in the decision-making process of future climate action. However, to ensure a seat at the decision-making table, children and youth have to navigate unequal power dynamics prevalent within the UN system. 

Recognizing the critical role children and youth play in global environmental governance, this study seeks to map the power dynamics and participation of children and youth in the UNFCCC decision-making processes. The study selected loss and damage negotiation track as case study because of the relevance of this thematic area and the ongoing developments happening around it. 

The key research questions of this study are:

  • How does the interplay of power dynamics within the UNFCCC official structure, between and among constituencies, affect the ability of children and youth to influence decision-making processes?
  • What are the power dynamics between and within the Children and Youth Constituency?
  • What factors play a role in creating and sustaining this power dynamic within the constituency?
  • How has this power imbalance been shaping the discussion on loss and damage in recent years?

The study will conduct a rigorous review of academic and non-academic literature to understand the current scenario of youth participation in UN key events and other advocacy platforms to influence the decision-making process. This review will provide the status quo of youth participation and will portray the power dynamics within the constituency. Additionally, the team will do field work to conduct 10 in-person interviews with youth actors and other relevant stakeholders (representatives of different geographical and political affiliations) at the Conference of the Parties (COP28) in Dubai, as this conference gather an exceptional amount of youth activists and are platforms for networking and collaboration. The fieldwork will also provide an opportunity to observe youth participation and engagement in the negotiation at both events. These interviews and the participatory observation will help us to understand what factors influence the power imbalance and how this is shaping the decision-making process.

Principal Investigator

Istiakh Ahmed, Doctoral Student, Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Principal Investigator

Olga Skaredina, Doctoral Student, Public Policy and Urban Affairs

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