COY 11: Youths Drafting a Future for Society

Summary

For the first time in 11 years, the Conference of Youth (COY) preceding COP 21 was held in Villepinte and simultaneously in seven other cities around the world. The Manifesto, a condensed summary of the youths’ proposals, was delivered to Laurent Fabius and François Hollande.

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You must have heard of COP 21, the major climate conference of the nations, in Paris. But what about its kid sister? It’s called COY (Conference of Youth). Organized by and for all young people who want to change the world, it has preceded the famous Conference of the Parties since 2005. Its message: “Today’s young people are prepared to act now for a more sustainable, more desirable society.” For its 11th edition, it attracted more than 5,000 people to Villepinte (outside Paris) for a three-day event from November 26 to 28. A review, in numbers: 116 nationalities present on Saturday, buses from 34 cities in France and abroad, 200 volunteers, 600 organizations that responded to COY’s call for projects, and 300 workshop sessions, not to mention the spontaneous initiatives launched on-site. A real hive of ideas and debates.

Organized by and for all young people who want to change the world, it has preceded the famous Conference of the Parties since 2005.

Six organizing movements

“We had three truly amazing days of exchanges and sharing,” bursts Astrid Barthélemy, the chief delegate from the French Student Network for Sustainable Development (REFEDD), which co-organized the event along with the associations Avenir Climatique, CliMates, the French Scouts Federation, the WARN! movement and the YOUNGO network. “We really felt like young people over the world could be protagonists capable of changing things in terms of the climate and society as a whole.” In the time leading up to COY, 10 working topics at the heart of youth concerns were predefined. The participants brainstormed on togetherness (multiculturalism, ecumenism, disabilities, sexuality, etc.), economics and finance (social and solidarity-based economy, entrepreneurship, investments, etc.), agricultural and food, jobs, energy, the climate, the biosphere, the geosphere, and more. In short, “each young person was able to talk about the subjects that interested them the most,” explains Astrid Barthélemy.

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COY in eight cities across the globe

Its connection to other cities around the world, “to allow as many young people as possible to participate, because some of them may be afraid to fly or may not have the resources to get to Paris,”

What was different about this COY? Its connection to other cities around the world, “to allow as many young people as possible to participate, because some of them may be afraid to fly or may not have the resources to get to Paris,” explains the Organizing Committee. As a result, seven other COYs were held simultaneously in countries on every continent in the world: in Abomey Calavi (Benin), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Florianópolis (Brazil), Montreal (Canada), Nouméa (New Caledonia), Rabat (Morocco) and Tokyo (Japan).  “This was something completely new. We were connected to the local COYs through Livestream, Skype, Twitter, and participatory documents,” Astrid Barthélemy spells out. “Each city where a COY was held brought up its own local solutions.” In the end, they all contributed to the Manifesto, which lists “all of the solutions from young people who want to mobilize.” That summary mentions eight action areas: education, human rights, environmental protection, its governing laws, adaptation to climate change, the consideration of youth in decision- and policy-making, energy, and sustainable agriculture.

The document was delivered to President of the French Republic François Hollande and French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius. What will become of the Manifesto? “It is often said that young people are listened to, but not heard,” resumes the REFEDD chief delegate. “Today, we want our message to be taken to COP 21, but not just that. Many of the mechanisms that we developed go much further than the United Nations Framework Agreement.” A tool that young people can use to win over their elders.

 Photo © : COY11