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Members of the Arab Youth Climate Movement.
DOHA: For the first time ever, young people in the Arab world will have their voice at UN climate change negotiations.
Youth organisations have been a part of global environmental talks since the 1922 Rio Earth Summit.
At COP11, held in Montreal, Canada, many of these groups joined together to form the International Youth Climate Movement (IYCM).
Several countries and regions of the world have since set up their own coalitions which operate under the IYCM banner, but the Arab region has never been represented. That will change at the UN Climate Change Conference 2012 – COP18/CMP8 Doha.
The Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) was set up in partnership with the activist groups IndyACT, 350.org, the Global Climate Change Alliance and the Climate Action Network.
More than 20 national coordinators in 15 member countries have been recruited to encourage young people to promote awareness of climate change and sustainability across North Africa and the Middle East.
AYCM plans to make its presence felt at COP18/CMP8 by stressing to Arab nations the importance of signing up to legally binding agreements to reduce their carbon emissions. The group is also organising a Day of Action in Doha on November 10, to encourage Qatar to take a lead role in the negotiations.
Mostafa Medhat, one of the regional coordinators of AYCM, said: “Since the next COP will take place on Arab soil we thought it was now time to let people all around the Arab region be aware of climate change.
“The younger generation knows about the impacts of climate change through the media, social media and awareness campaigns, which didn’t exist before. Since it is they who are facing the impact of climate change they know that they will have to solve the problems themselves.”
Medhat believes that giving young Arabs a presence at the conference will help convince government ministers from the region to take action to help preserve the planet for future generations.
One of the young Qataris involved with AYCM is Rahma Daoud Abuswai, 22, who is studying environmental science at Qatar University.
She said: “Ever since I was a child I had an interest in climate change and I would watch the news as I was growing up.
“But there are not many youth movements related to climate change in the Arab region. The fact that this movement will combine all these youths from different countries around a single purpose is amazing.”
Climate change is becoming hard to ignore in the Arab region, Abuswai added, because its impact is already being felt.