In high school, I participated in a program called Model Arab League. It’s a youth leadership development program that has participants engage in a day-long diplomatic simulation. Students from my school and various others in Atlanta were assigned as delegates from a particular Arab country in the Middle East or Northern Africa. I was assigned to be a delegate of Tunisia.
In preparation for the simulation, I learned a bit about Tunisia’s history, internal political structure and dynamics, diplomatic relations with other countries in the Arab League, and policy priorities. In theory, delegates are expected to advocate for their countries’ priorities, seeking common ground and collaboration from both aligned and oppositional countries. In practice, I remember it being a whole lot of overanxious teenagers arguing for more and more ridiculous things. I also remember the most successful delegates tended to be the loudest. I’m guessing it fell far short of being an authentic replication of real deliberations within the Arab League. But that didn’t mean it was a waste of time though! I had a blast doing it, and I was exposed, even if just at a surface level, to political systems and cultures far different from my own. By the end of the experience, I was a better thinker than I was before.
I was reminded of that high school experience this week. In a non-COVID alternate universe, the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26, the annual United Nations climate change gathering) would be ending this week. Hopefully, we would have seen a strengthening of commitments made by countries under the Paris Agreement five years ago. Alas, it was not to be…at least not in its usual form.
The actual Glasgow conference has been delayed a year, but in its place the Mock COP will occur. Between November 19th and December 1st, youth from around the world will lead a virtual conference as if they were their countries’ delegates to COP26. As the website states, they “will be following a similar structure to the postponed COP26 climate summit to raise the ambition of our leaders when it comes to tackling the climate emergency.”
I love this so much. Participants will experience keynotes, panels, workshops and caucuses structured around five climate themes: climate justice, education, health, green jobs, and carbon reduction targets. The end result will be a statement to world leaders about what the youth of the world are asking them to do on climate action.
As we have seen in recent years, youth across the world are clued in to the urgency of the climate crisis. This is yet another example of them finding their common voice, and choosing to use it now rather than wait for their turns in positions of influence. When I did something similar in high school, I was just padding my college application resume and hoping to learn a thing or two. Young people today are trying to change the world! My how the times have changed, and not a moment too soon.