Youth led solutions at a mock COP
There is no doubt that we live in uncertain times. Young people in Wales are facing unprecedented global changes including the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on everything from technology to employment and mental health, the rise of extremism and the rapidly evolving changes to our climate.
It is no surprise then that we are observing concomitant attitudes in young people. During studies conducted over the last year, we have seen that (67%) have articulated concerns on their long-term mental health as a result of being locked down for prolonged periods of time and a concerning 70% of young people report experiencing eco anxiety. Our youth are taking on a world with significant and complex problems and the underlying question they struggle with is: are they up to the task of fixing them? Our question as the older generation is: how do we help?
For me, young people in Wales are more up to the task than they might know. Not only do they have the benefit from living in a country that legislates to ensure the wellbeing of future generations but, they also learn in an education system that will teach them about the issues of the world and what we can do to develop them. The Flynn effect describes the abilities of each generation to surpass the intelligence of those they precede and in my experience of working with young people, their viewpoints are always relevant and articulate: able to look at problems with innovative approaches. However, the onus is on us, as the older generations, to ensure that our youth are able to use their voices to make real changes happen. We must be better at listening to young people and showing them how, when they take action, “you are never too small to make a difference (Greta Thunberg)”. Learning about global issues is essential but without giving young people the skills and experiences they need to see meaningful change as a result, we are handing them an impossible situation.
For me, experiences like our project MockCOP (partnered with Size of Wales) are essential in helping young people develop a voice on world issues and to take that voice to the ears of decision makers. MockCOP is essentially a Model United Nations where different countries (represented by schools across Wales) come together to tackle climate change. Young people represent delegations from different countries and negotiate resolutions to resolve the problems through collaborative problem solving.
Through participating in this process, students learn about power and equity, developing skills in critical thinking and confident communication to make decisions. In addition, they have the opportunity to pass their recommendations into our Policy Papers and go on to join our Youth Climate Ambassadors, a Youth Group who take climate action across Wales and beyond.
The remarkable part of this experience is hearing from people who have been through it. One of our Ambassadors was recently asked why she started her journey in tackling climate change and replied that she’d never really thought about it until preparing for her first MockCOP. “It’s funny”, she’d said “When I started to see things happening because of me, I didn’t want to stop making them happen”. It is such an articulate description of citizenship and what our young people need to hear about the future they are building – that with passion and persistence, they can change the world.
Schools and young people can sign up for MockCOPs for free here:
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