This month I was lucky enough to attend a UNICEF-led workshop for University of Aberdeen students. The event was hosted by Fabio Friscia, Maryam Elgoni and Ashlynn McCool from UNICEF and explored youth advocacy in relation to the climate crisis.
The hosts did an amazing job at creating a safe and open space where we were able to learn with and from each other whilst discussing our ideas, problems, fears and hopes for the future.
The session was steered by the ‘Youth Advocacy Guide’ and the newly updated ‘Global Youth Advocacy Guide’, as we worked through different sections of the guides. It was emphasised that an advocacy journey is not linear, plans and ideas change, and we adapt as new information and adjustments come into play. It is clear that the youth advocacy guide is a great starting point for any enthusiastic advocates, and I suggest you check it out if you are able (linked below). Although the guide is fit for various types of advocacy, we focused on issues surrounding climate change as it’s an important and topical issue, especially with COP26 having taken place in November.
The session was equally important as it can be linked to the University of Aberdeen’s Aberdeen 2040 goals. As the session focused on combatting climate change and creating meaningful change in your community, we looked at the wider Aberdeen area and had discussions about the just energy transition, the emerging hydrogen industry and the future of renewables.
The external speakers were happy that our university had reached out to arrange this session as Aberdeen has, in previous years, been known as the Oil and Gas capital of Europe. I think that speaks a lot to the changes we are aiming to make in our community and the future vision for the University of Aberdeen. This aspect of the session transitioned nicely to a discussion about the University’s current sustainable practices and goals for the future.
An amazing takeaway from the session was the exploration of meaningful vs. tokenistic ‘youth’ advocacy, a topic of importance in the current climate. Tokenistic advocacy functions as pretending to include disadvantaged groups, in order to give an appearance of fairness. However, meaningful advocacy entails actions that are direct, purposeful, and inclusive (at all stages and in all aspects) which enforce equality of voices of those involved. I am pleased we highlighted this and think it’s a really important topic, showing that we need to amplify the voices that are often excluded.
If any students have enhanced their advocacy plans, I would love to hear about it and support you if possible. I’ve added some great resources below, check them out to find out more about starting your advocacy journey today!
Useful links and resources:
- Championing Change Through Advocacy | Voices of Youth
- Project Drawdown
- Youth Advocacy Guide (ENGLISH).pdf (unicef.org)
- Environment and climate change | UNICEF
- ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY STATEMENT (abdn.ac.uk)
- Aberdeen 2040 | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)
- Fossil Fuel Divestment | About | The University of Aberdeen (abdn.ac.uk)
- The Scottish Food and Drink Net Zero Challenge Fund | Interface Knowledge Connection (interface-online.org.uk)