• Rose Kobusinge, Emily Karanja

In a changing climate, where mobility in relation to climate change drivers is becoming a norm for the youth, and where many parts of East and Horn of Africa are becoming inhabitable or economically unproductive, the perspectives and voices of youth must be raised, in recognition of the important role that youth can, and must play in influencing the perspectives, narratives, and priorities of policy makers on this topic. They have, for a long time, been ignored in decision making processes and forums.  The voices of youth have been typically silent. Youth are playing an active role in policy advocacy, creating awareness, and channelling their energy in educating the communities on climate change and its impact on young people and future generations. They are also innovators in creating climate smart businesses to create resilience towards the changing environment and lost resources. 

We recognize the efforts of organizations championing meaningful youth engagement in the climate mobility discourse and decision making. For example, this year the International Organization for Migration (IOM), through its Regional Office for East and Horn of Africa (RO EHoA), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and East African Development Bank (EADB) Regional Collaboration Centre (RCC) with the Government of Uganda’s Ministry of Water & Environment as a host, organized a high-level event on Migration, Environment and Climate Change in the East and Horn of Africa, on 27 to 29 July 2022, in Kampala, Uganda. 
The overall objective of this conference was to draw together member states to develop a joint approach to addressing the impact of climate change on human mobility in the East and Horn of Africa region. The outcomes of the discussions have helped youth stakeholders clarify their inputs for COP27.

As a result, the President of the Republic of Uganda and the president of the  Republic of South Sudan, Ministers and high-level representatives from  Burundi,  Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, as well as Senegal, which holds the current Presidency of the African Union, Egypt which holds the Presidency of the COP27, Algeria, and Zambia, the current Chair of the African Group of Negotiators, endorsed a new Declaration on tackling climate change-induced migration and displacement dubbed the ‘Kampala Ministerial Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate change.’ The declaration signed in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, is aimed at bringing nations across the East & Horn of Africa region together to prioritize, respond to and galvanize global support to deal with the harsh impact of climate change and human mobility.  

Meaningful youth engagement

To ensure youth inclusion, IOM, RCC Kampala, YOUNGO (the official children and youth Constituency of the UNFCCC) and Chatham House supported to bring together young people to contribute to the development of the Kampala Declaration on Migration, Environment and Climate Change.

To ensure inclusivity, and meaningful youth engagement, two interactive and consultative online forums were held to draw up a youth statement towards contributing to these discussions. Using the already existing youth networks, a draft statement was drawn up and a survey was conducted for fellow mates to input action-oriented feedback and recommendations for presentation to policymakers. A delegation of 12 youth representing the East and Horn of African countries were selected to attend the conference and work together with the Migration Working Group members to develop the final draft for inclusion in the regional declaration. 

A moderated hybrid youth panel discussion was held on day one of the conference featuring youth representatives from the Republic of Sudan, Badraldeen Ali Bashir, the Republic of Uganda Siraji Birigigi and the Republic of Ethiopia Feben Tamrat in a bid to share their country-specific experiences on climate change challenges including climate-induced migration and youth action in their respective communities. They were joined by expert representatives from the African Union, Geoffrey Wafula; the African Climate Migration Initiatives Kamal Amakrane; and Miss Environment Africa 2022 pageant holder Judith Heard. Participants joining online represented various countries in the region and the African continent. 

Key points drawn from the Youth Panel 

  • There is a need for youth inclusion in decision-making processes. Whenever disaster hits, youths are the first to move mainly because of family obligations, and or economic ambitions.Therefore, there is a need to ensure the views, ambitions, and vulnerabilities of young people are taken into consideration when developing policy agendas and solutions towards solving such challenges; while paying attention to protection, particularly young girls. This can be supported by developing green skills for the youth to enable them to succeed in this transition. 
  • Youth forums need to be enabled to discuss the knowledge and data on climate change and migration towards building climate literacy among young people so as to understand climate change and its challenges in developing ambitions and solutions to influence policy and programme design. In fact, the Africa Climate Mobility Initiative (ACMI) was planning a youth conversation at the Climate Mobility Pavillion during COP27.
  • Collaboration needs to be strengthened within the region towards effectively building the capacity of new and existing institutional frameworks working on migration and climate change. Global, regional and national level institutions cannot work in isolation to achieve migration and climate justice. There is a need to harmonize the legal and policy frameworks at global, regional and national levels in identifying priorities and actions towards addressing climate change and its challenges. This will also help identify resourcing and how countries can tap into those resources for livelihood support, poverty reduction and also capacity building. Working in collaboration will create a common agenda towards addressing resilience capacity and reducing vulnerabilities in the region.  
  • There is a need for Data Democracy as data informs decision-making. Data and knowledge contribute in identifying solutions for adaptation and resilience. Communities need to access accurate and updated data and statistics to inform local and national initiatives and projects.  

Youth Key Messages

Through the two youth consultative forums, informative surveys and the panel discussion a key youth statement was developed and circulated separately to the country representatives and delegates at the conference. These detailed recommendations, collaborative efforts for implementation and demands on solving human mobility in the context of climate change. The key youth statements were drawn from 5 key thematic areas of action, capacity -building, improved data and knowledge production, rights-based approaches to adaptation, multi-stakeholder collaboration and accessible finance. The key youth statements did not only have demands and recommendations, youth representatives put down their own commitments and contributions towards addressing climate change and migration. 

After presenting these action points, key demands and recommendations to the delegation, three statements were adopted for inclusion in the final declaration. 

  1. Address knowledge gaps by understanding and applying indigenous knowledge and practices in the development of appropriate adaptation responses, to reduce the context-specific vulnerability of communities to the impacts of climate change.
  2. Apply and integrate gender and human rights-based approaches in the design and implementation of policies relating to the climate change-migration nexus.
  3. Create a Multi-Partner Financing instrument including for the youth to avert, minimize and address loss and damage, and advance the Global Goal on adaptation in the East and Horn of Africa. 

Successes, key highlights in the processes of youth engagement 

“My own key highlights were on 28th when the delegates from South Sudan and from Somalia committed to immediately ensure some youth will be part of the COP27 official delegation and I have followed up and found they were indeed accredited though still having funding issues.Another highlight was on the 29th while presenting in front of HE Museveni and HE South Sudan President and HEs the ministers. One key thing I vividly remember is being quoted by the South Sudan President regarding the urgent need to engage women in leadership  promising that “25% of South Sudan cabinet is female and more is still to be done in ensuring women take leadership.”  Rose Kobusinge - Uganda

“Having the youth voices represented during this high-level forum, showed great progress on inclusion and youth engagement.The highlight of the conference was presenting the key youth statements to the delegation and having three youth statements adopted to the final declaration and country delegates committing to engage with the youth in decision-making processes at the country level. Also, the signing of the declaration by all representatives from the different member states showed unity and high commitment by the governments represented to put aside their differences to tackle the issue of climate change and its impending challenges.” Emily Karanja - Kenya

“I was excited to actively engage with fellow youths across the region and high-level decision-makers to amplify the voices of youth and vulnerable communities who are impacted by climate-induced human migration. Our Common Agenda (OCA) Report of 2021 by the UN Secretary-General provided directives for leaders to listen to and work with youth. And this was exactly what happened in the process of adopting the Kampala Declaration. We now need a way forward to make real changes in the communities and deliver actions to create a robust and resilient community.” Humphrey Mrema - Tanzania

Participants' thoughts on the challenges in youth engagement

Meaningful African youth engagement can, of course, be challenging but it’s not an option, but rather a requirement. Coupled with issues of language barrier, representation from the millions who are not online or even have an idea about human-induced climate change,  with challenges of conflicting social-cultural setups in Africa. With sayings such as old is gold, with age comes wisdom etc. Not to dismiss any of this, but our generation is facing different challenges and our vision for our future is different. We need intergenerational dialogue and collaboration to break the barriers to meaningful youth engagement. There is a wide gap in the media’s interest in reporting young people’s voices, which is a barrier to youth engagement. Also, more time was needed for more representation of youth voices 

Moving forward
We call on our governments, the UN and other partners to facilitate meaningful youth engagement through giving more influential spaces, capacity building and resources to African youth and young women. We also stress that youth engagement is beyond panels but rather continuous and reflective and transformative collaboration with youth as partners, co-designers and partners through all decision-making, policy development, implementation and evaluation processes.  

Indeed, thank you to IOM for continuously supporting us, the youth, and the YOUNGO Migration working group beyond the Kampala conference, to COY17, COP27 and more support is on the way moving forward. In fact we have launched the first African youth declaration on climate mobility, building on Kampala key messages and in collaboration with ACMI with IOM as a main partner, UNICEF and African Union Youth Envoy.".

To all the African youth out there, let’s continue demanding for our spaces and utilise those spaces by bringing a positive change to our communities and continent. Let’s also focus on the bigger picture and change. Let's not wait only for conferences but act with passion and the spirit of Pan-Africanism. We, the young people and young women know, there is nothing for us without us, the future cannot be decided without us. We are the ones that understand our challenges, we have solutions and we have the vision. We are the present, we are the future, we are the solution, we are the change.


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recognizes the importance of engaging with youth and enhancing their active participation in migration policy dialogue, especially pertaining to climate change. In this context and as part of IOM’s Institutional Strategy on Migration, Environment and Climate Change, IOM offers a space to young people to express and share their perspectives and concerns about the impact climate change has on their mobility.   

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IOM.


SDG 13 - Climate Action
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals