U.N. snuffs youth delegation

Diplomacy in Cancun will be less transparent without youth delegates at climate conference.

Jayme Dittmar

I am one of many students at the University of Minnesota who applied to be a student delegate at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun in November. I submitted an essay and application, filled out the paperwork, stood for hours at the post office to complete tedious passport forms. I was positive and eager to tell the story of how the world finally came together to create a working climate treaty.
Or at least I was positive until I heard I might be cut from the program.
The U.N. is limiting its observation audience worldwide, and many youth delegations are feeling selective pressures.
Though the U. N. has several reasons for significantly scaling back on allowed representatives, its rationale will not contribute to finding a working climate treaty.
John Vreyens, a director in the International Agricultural Program at the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, said there is limited space at the conference site.
The U.N. brags about record attendance in the most recent climate change negotiations held in Copenhagen last December. There were 120 heads of state, 10,500 delegates, 13,500 observers and more than 3,000 media representatives.  
However, a United Nations Climate Change Conference presentation regarding site choice estimated only 20,000 would attend, making the Cancun hotel a feasible location.
If the U.N. claims to encourage effective participation of observers, why did its officials choose a site with such space constraints?
Another argument for limiting observation participation is that the immense audience of Copenhagen hindered the ability of the U.N. to create a working climate change policy.
Senior Andy Pearson, an attendee of a climate seminar in Colorado, said the general consensus of national sustainability academia is that there were too many participants and strands of negotiation in Copenhagen. All of the voices led to too much diplomacy.
These reasons nevertheless do not justify cutting out a younger generation of delegates.
First, the number of constituents present holds power to affect decision making process.
âÄúPolitical decision makers need to be reminded by strength in numbers that people care about this,âÄù said Pearson.
Also, as the U.N. is making decisions about the climate of tomorrow, donâÄôt the people of tomorrow, or todayâÄôs youth, have a right to be present?
Reed Aronow, Cancun-bound and a participant in the SustainUs, a youth delegation, said they have also felt the pressures of U.N. audience restrictions.
He said youth delegations were very influential in the policy process in Copenhagen. They would fill the front of the meeting rooms and had the opportunity to make their questions and concerns known to U.S. representatives.
They also met with the young hopeful generations from across the world removed from the policy process.
âÄúEven though the old guys couldnâÄôt come to an agreement, we did,âÄù said Aronow. âÄúWe created an international youth movement and this is something that is not going away.âÄù
In restricting the youth who attend the Cancun conference, the U.N. is hindering future global policy leader collaboration.
The U.N. needs to acknowledge that participation of youth and other observatory audiences increases transparency, diplomacy and will be fundamental to creating a working global climate policy.