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Youth for NDCs: Opportunities for Engagement

Youth for NDCs: Opportunities for Engagement

ecause Uganda is a predominantly youthful nation, we the young people will bear the brunt of most of the effects that a changing climate will bring. However, Uganda has constantly been sidelined in the development of policies surrounding climate and climate change.

Objective 2 of the Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) highlights the importance of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in strengthening and implementing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), yet Uganda’s previous NDCs, (2015) lacked a broad youth consultative approach. Inclusivity and youth involvement puts us in a stronger position to achieve our NDC goals as a country.

If we want to achieve success, we need to involve youth, both in their formulation as well as in the execution of policies and guiding documents such as the NDCs. This would guarantee the success of the policies. We need more methods that bring together all stakeholders, government, youth organizations and movements, networks, citizens, private sector players, and other stakeholders.

A study by Brookings Institute, published in December 2019, found that national climate strategies are forgetting about girls, children, and youth. The study posits, “more than half of NDCs failed to mention children, youth, or future generations. Of the 42 per cent that referenced children, the majority positioned children as a vulnerable group. The newly Updated NDCs draft are no exception.”

The updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) document boasts more ambitious goals than before, it claims an inclusive approach that is sadly not shown in the document.

A review of the current NDC document shows several oversights. The document hardly mentions youth and women. The word youth is mentioned 3 times; girls, 2 times; and women 10 times and this is mostly in sweeping statements or allusions. Where youth are mentioned, it lumps them together as vulnerable persons with no specific actions or approaches mentioned.

The document does point out the need for measured actions but misses the mark in how it deals with the issues. This undermines the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities espoused in the Paris Agreement.

The lack of specific and measured interventions is glaringly obvious. General targets make it harder to achieve and even harder to hold key actors accountable.  If one does not have a specific target, one cannot hit it.

While the updated NDCs miss an opportunity to highlight the involvement of youth and women, it is not without opportunities for youth to position themselves to benefit. With an estimated 16 billion dollars in projected finance, and as the biggest demographic and most vulnerable to climate change, youth should be the first and last line actors in climate mitigation actions. As agents of change, entrepreneurs, and beneficiaries of various intervention mechanisms in the NDC Implementation Plan that is yet to be developed, the younger generation represent our surest way to successfully meet these ambitious targets.

According to the NDCs Document, “65 percent of new jobs are in urban centers, yet there hasn’t been any affected wage growth or job creation”. The informal sector contributes 51 per cent share to GDP. The private sector employs about 2.5 million people. There are opportunities in the waste and Sanitation sector.

Because water, Sanitation and waste management have become key components of our NDCs, the management of waste has gained importance. We look at this as an opportunity in two specific ways, incentives to start businesses and thus create jobs with direct involvement as change actors. With this, the circular economy is fully representative.

With the advancement of technology, Uganda, like all other nations, must now grapple with a growing e-waste crisis. Developing nations will bear the brunt of this due to the large market for secondhand electronic goods. The sector does provide opportunities for youth involvement. As the bulk of the population and the ones most likely to consume these electronics, they are best able to articulate the possible needs in the sector.

The climate change bill provides ‘for incentives for climate change actions to persons engaged in implementing response measures for adaptation and mitigation, duties to be imposed on individuals and private entities by the Minister’ With this in mind, it presents an avenue for resource interventions and incentives to encourage importation of newer technologies i.e. both tech in itself as well as tools to recycle, repair and dispose of e-waste among others, as well as incentives to allow youth start waste disposal and management businesses.

In the long term, there is a need for studies into the scope of this potential problem as well as future-proofed regulation aimed at mitigating its effect.

The growing waste needs, as highlighted in the NDCs, and the mitigation actions they recommend are not enough. We need short term intermediate actions that will respond to the urgent crisis of poor waste management and its knock-on effects. In this regard, youth too can be mobilized to start businesses and initiatives, like emptying of communal toilets or the building and running of commercial communal sanitation facilities.

This provides for Direct Job Creation as sanitation workers; Direct opportunities for youth led entrepreneurial ventures; Direct involvement as community change agents and workers; and an area for incentives to enter the fields as entrepreneurs.

The processing of solid waste into agricultural inputs i.e., fertilizers and, in some cases, as an ingredient in briquettes for advanced charcoal stoves is one other avenue for youth employment and impact.

60% of Uganda’s land is used for subsistence agriculture with just a small percentage as commercial. Land degradation and extreme weather events like drought and floods threaten the livelihoods of not only the older generation, but that of the youth of this country.

We recognize the efforts of the government in providing various funding opportunities to youth and a move to get more youth into commercial agriculture but the high cost of land and agricultural inputs, the unregulated market, and unscrupulous middlemen make commercial agriculture a difficult endeavor. Furthermore, climate driven changes make a tough sector even tougher.

Water and land degradation are two of the greatest threats to farming in Uganda. While our water resource is massive, the means to harness it to boost productions are still low. Drilling of wells for agriculture is largely non-existent. The fuel used in said water pumps is unaffordable especially with the recent spike in fuel prices. Rural electrification is behind schedule and the use of eclectic pumps and other measures cannot be adopted thus.

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Actions that accelerate local innovations through training, design challenges as well as utilizing indigenous knowledge in these sectors and among the youth would greatly increase our ability to deal with droughts and flooding.

As a community, our increased urbanization brings new risks. With the growing population, particularly in the urban centers, it has become harder for essential services to reach those in the slum areas where modern housing is a myth hence increasing the risk of flooding and infectious diseases due to the poor waste management in the slum areas.

While this might be the case, investment in modern housing and built environment design would help mitigate these but most housing initiatives are beyond the grasp of the urban poor. To mitigate this, we recommend planned phased rehabilitation of slum housing as well as regulation of the construction industry to allow youth-led companies or community initiatives take the forefront in construction projects.

But all good partnerships are two-way. The youth have always been seen as a resource to be tapped into, but government also has a role to play in creating conducive and progressive precedent.

A great turning point in governance was the introduction of youth seats in parliament, and national youth council. But we need more.

We need a youth-run mechanism within the government that can operate independently and is solely focused on championing a holistic, multi-partisan, youth centric approach to government policy.

We need to go beyond focus groups that are sought out only when reports require a youth component. This will provide a place for continued youth involvement and input.

This must go beyond making motions and hoping they are adopted and passed. The youth of Uganda have proven that they are able to work together to improve their livelihoods if they are empowered and funded. We need mechanisms that can independently challenge policy at all levels as well as seek out solutions and able actors to engage in youth transformation.

Government must show its commitment to its youth with rapid follow through and sustained effort to achieve these mitigation actions before the expiration of this round of NDCs.

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