Piet Ubels: “You know that one time, when I almost spoke on behalf of the future…?”

I came within an inch of addressing the world at UNEA-2 (the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly). This Assembly, which represents the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, will culminate in resolutions and a global call to action to address the critical environmental challenges facing the world today.

As a brief description of what is a very confusing setup, we are representing the Major Group of Children & Youth (MGCY), one of the nine groups in the Major Groups & Stakeholders (MG&S). Together with the MG&S we are deliberating on a number of resolution documents divided and clustered up into a few working groups on (the number of these groups keeps changing)

On the first morning of UNEA-2 we found that those resolutions our working group were to address were to be deliberated on that very afternoon. Of major concern to me was that our group had been tasked with the resolution concerning the United Nations Environment Assembly’s (UNEP) position towards the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Within the drafted UN document there still lingers an echo of uncertainty in the statements concerning the Paris Agreement’s ratification and legally binding status. Personally I also have grave concerns about the lack of practical action being enacted by both my own government and others in order to achieve the affirmed reduction targets.

As the day wore on I slowly came to the realization that no pre-organized statements by our working group seemed to be coming through. The clock was ticking, and I was surprised that a key opportunity such as this to make a statement to the world was going to go amiss. How was no one from the major groups pushing for any message on something so crucial? All I knew was that someone had to put forward something, but who better than from someone in the generation who will be most affected by it?

With mere hours to go till the assembly session, I quickly wrote up an intervention statement and got to work navigating through the murky process of obtaining approval by both the wider international MGCY, and of the rest of the major group delegations. We, the youth, were to speak on behalf of all the Major Groups. I was to speak on behalf of all the groups…

It was then with this stage sorted that we found out what was to be a smaller private session had now been moved to the full assembly holding delegates from over 170 nations. Now I will admit, the thought of stepping up to speak to the UN assembly as the sole representative of over half the world’s population did terrify me a little. But I pushed onward as it needed to be done.

Alas, when it came to the definitive moment, all of the hype suddenly came crashing down. The chair of that session made an inexplicable decision to not give voice to any of the Major Groups and Stakeholders. Due to the sensitive nature we also had radio silence forced on us - no tweets, no social media, no communication with the outside world. Chaos broke out in the MG&S and no one knew how long it would last. I was shot. A chance at a defining moment at the event was gone and my plane had crashed.

But perhaps my chance may come again?


All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.

Posted on May 25, 2016 and filed under UNEA 2016.