The Voice of African Youth


We, the African Youth, meeting in Johannesburg South Africa for the Tunza Generation Earth Summit in preparation for the UNFCCC, COP 17 and Rio + 20 from 23rd – 25th November 2011 are calling on world leaders and other members of society to commit themselves to fight for a sustainable future through infrastructure, health care, economics, social upliftment, green jobs and responsible business practices.

Today, nearly half of the world’s population is under the age of 25 and most live in developing countries. We will be here when today’s legislators, consumers and polluters are gone. To preserve the world we will inherit, we demand that this generation of decision makers and political leaders be the one to introduce the laws that incentivize the crossover from non-sustainable energy to sustainable energy and the one that should create protected conservation areas to rescue and secure each significant ecosystem for the generations to come. We maintain steadfastly the need to invest more in education, employment of youth in establishing the green economy. This will both enable us to live productive and worthwhile lives while ourselves contributing to a just green economy transition.

We agree with the United Nations Secretary- General: Mr. Ban Ki Moon, stating that an economy that fails to invest in our children and youth is a false economy. Through this document we believe we will enhance the youth engagement and participation in the required global efforts to combat climate change for integrated sustainable development, in line with the needs and priorities of our region as identified by the Group of African Negotiators.

It must be our focus to always protect the rights of citizen activists, civil society and individuals who fight and put their lives at risk and hold Government accountable as they fight to create a society of adaptation and sustainable development moving forward. We the African youth, remain united, we have set up key follow up actions that will be undertaken as a result of the UNFCCC COP 17.

Our concerns encompass climate change and the need for a global transition towards a sustainable development that would ensure a more socially conscious, environmentally responsive and economically promising world for all. We call on our negotiators to treat the Earth with respect, resist disorder and reach a climate agreement that will keep us safe. We look up to a legally binding climate treaty.

We declare that Africa must unite, and with one voice speak out for the justice of the vulnerable, minority and under-privileged groups and the disabled in Africa and beyond, who stand to risk the most from Climate change impacts!

Below are the key points, we as the African Youth have committed to and call upon our leaders and the world to consider and implement going forward:

>> Unemployment and poverty is the foremost challenge affecting us the African youth.

Green economy has a potential to become a net generator of decent jobs if well designed, given that we African youth welcome this global initiative.

We therefore call upon world leaders to, through an inclusive, democratic and participative process:

  • Develop national green economy transition plans with particular emphasis on the creation of green jobs;
  • Provide relevant training and capacity-building programmes to enable green jobs, both at a formal and informal level;
  • Create a national youth or environmental fund specifically to support young entrepreneurs working towards a green economy; and
  • Partner with businesses to provide paid internships in areas pertaining to the green economy and environmental sustainability
  • Implement stringent regulations to ensure that the green economy does really benefit and keeps an ecological integrity.

>> Sustainable energy production and use is the primary way to keep global warming below 1.5 oC.

If global carbon emissions are to be reduced by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, a shift from fossil fuel sources to renewable energy sources is to be made.

  • Recalling that Africa has the world’s largest technical potential for renewable energy power generation, through its vast solar, biomass, and wind resources, we call upon world leaders to undertake the following initiatives:
  • Phase out fossil fuel subsidies and transfer these subsidies to renewable energy sources;
  • Invest in green technology research and development and provide financial support to young entrepreneurs and scholars working towards sustainable energy solutions;
  • Provide theoretical and practical education on renewable energy and provide renewable energy facilities to communities so as to suit their needs; and
  • Impose on businesses to report their annual carbon footprint and energy use, and set significant reduction targets as part of their company policies.

>> Education is the cornerstone of human existence and development of countries and communities.

Young people need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, training and capacity to help solve climate change and to advocate for the same from Governments.

We therefore request world leaders to keep environmental education, with a special focus on climate change but understanding that issues of health, infrastructure and economics are too at the forefront. We request you all to ensuring the following:

  • Reform the national educational curricula such that education for sustainable development is made compulsory at primary school levels;
  • Develop supplementary environmental educational programmes such as sustainable consumer behaviour and indigenous knowledge at both formal and informal learning institutions, and make it accessible to all; and
  • Use mainstream and social media as a tool to promote environmental consciousness and ongoing environmental negotiations for the public to contribute to.

>> Agriculture accounts for 34 per cent of the GDP of sub-Saharan African countries and employs about 70 per cent of the population.


Many young Africans live in rural areas where they engage in subsistence farming and food security remains the prime challenge facing Africa.

In this regard, we urge world leaders to:

  • Protect, educate and advocate for farmers’ rights and implement right-related international regulations such as right to water, food and land;
  • Promote sustainable agricultural practices such as livestock production systems, agro-ecological practices and other decentralized, bottom-up solutions such as efficient irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting, etc.;
  • Promote and support small-scale and local farming through adequate (micro-finance) strategies and stabilize the agriculture market through availing information about products pricing and poor-centered agro-insurance schemes; and
  • Formulate policies that prevent land grab or ensure full participation in lands concessions.

>> Water not strongly reflected in UNFCCC negotiations

The international community must take responsibility for protecting water resources in the face of a changing climate and water scarcity. The management of water in all of its forms is a key factor in issues including but not limited to, food security, national security, health, water supply, ecosystem diversity and response to increased climatic variability. Water is not a focus in any of the official documentation but really needs to be a priority in negotiations and decisions.

>> Biodiversity and natural resources

We also insist for biodiversity preservation and the need for a sound management of natural resources across borders as biodiversity loss is unprecedented and many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable members of society depend on the earth’s natural resources.

Recognizing the fact that climate change is the greatest challenge to our present and future, we support the African position that there is no room for delaying concrete climate actions. In line with science and the UNFCCC principles, we insist on the need to respect the CBDR and that of historical responsibility.

>>> This statement endorses all other African Statements, where the youth have voiced their concerns and recommendations. These include the Lusaka Declaration, the Generation Earth Statement, the Addis Ababa Statement, the Bandung Declaration and the ‘We Have Faith’ Petition. The purpose is to carry the Voice of the Africa Youth as a unified stance on climate change, green economy and sustainable practices in every element of our lives. Inter-generational equity is not only for us the youth but for young and old and as we make our own decisions as youth these will inform the future of the younger generations to follow.

25 November 2011  

Further Resources

Further Resources

TUNZA website