The Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN) was officially launched during COP25 in December 2019. In line with the UNFCCC Paris Agreement, aimed to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change, YoU-CAN was created with a view to supporting and facilitating youth-led climate action to reach its full potential and impact, by building on existing relevant youth action in the areas of Natural Sciences, Education, Culture, Social and Human Sciences, Communication and Information.
Supporting youth-led action: a key-lever to raise climate ambition
Results of UNESCO’s World in 2030 Survey show that climate change is the most important topic the world needs to address in the coming decade. YoU-CAN can help UNESCO reinforce its climate action and transform its operations to identify and implement new and innovative ways of addressing the issue, by strengthening strategic partnerships and meaningfully engaging with youth.
Indeed, youth of today are among the strongest voices for social change and particularly for climate action. The ambition behind YoU-CAN is to promote and support their mobilization and advocacy efforts to address the climate crisis, especially in the Small Island Development States and among indigenous youth communities.
Therefore, YoU-CAN aims to be a youth-led network that provides youth with a safe space to engage, participate, communicate and generate solutions to address global climate change issues, within UNESCO’s fields of competence.
As a hub of knowledge, a pool of potential partners, a source of innovative projects, and a resource for multidisciplinary climate solutions, YoU-CAN aims to:
- leverage youth-led climate action by sharing and upscaling ideas, collaborating with networks and organizations, and implementing successful grassroots projects.
- upscale UNESCO’s positioning on climate change, by contributing to its climate change activities, and codesigning and co-implementing climate activities in all its fields of competence.
- improve the ownership of youth and leadership in UNESCO’s activities by building on the knowledge of youths, their creative potential and innovative ideas to make and influence positive climate action, through meaningful collaboration and partnerships.
A fifteen-member ad hoc Steering Group with representatives of youth networks from different regions and fields of expertise was established in 2020. The Steering Group aims to advance the operationalization of YoU-CAN by developing a strategic direction, a governance structure, and an outline of operations for the Network, in accordance with needs on the ground.
YoU-CAN’s ad-hoc Steering Group
In order to operationalize the YoU-CAN Network, an ad-hoc Steering Group of youth network representatives was established in July 2020, following consultations with UNESCO Sectors and Field Offices and a thorough selection process conducted by YoU-CAN’s project team.
The ad-hoc Steering Group is composed of three representatives per region, keeping in mind UNESCO’s global priorities Gender Equality and Africa, and Small Islands Developing States among its priority targets.
Accompanied by the UNESCO Secretariat, its role is to advance the operationalization of YoU-CAN until it is formally replaced by a youth-elected body to run the Network.
The youth-led Steering Group started its work in August 2020 and will be establishing a strategic direction, a governance structure, and an outline of operations and activities for YoU-CAN.
The diverse profiles of these fifteen young professionals, scientists, activists, students, and volunteers contribute valuable and complementary expertise, in order to develop the network in accordance with needs on the ground.
Meet the members of the steering group
Renewable Energy & Environmental Sustainability (REES) Africa
Joy Chiadika is an environmentalist, a climate change advocate, and a sustainability activist with keen interest in building sustainable and climate-resilient communities in Nigeria and in Africa. With experience leading projects in Nigeria, Joy supports organizations to implement capacity building programmes to tackle energy poverty, climate change, and environmental sustainability.
Joy presently serves as a Sub-Saharan Africa representative on the Ad-hoc steering committee of the UNESCO Youth Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN) and is the Lead for Community Engagement at Renewable Energy & Environmental Sustainability (REES) Africa. When she is not working, Joy is actively volunteering with humanitarian-focused organizations and reading.
“My sense of urgency in climate change matters stems from the perspective of whether the future generations will die as a result of a climate catastrophe or some natural disaster. YoU-CAN presents a great opportunity for me and other young people around the world tackle this predominant challenge.”
SIDS Youth AIMS Hub
Chamsia holds a degree of Management of Tropical Ecosystems. She works as a teacher and a technical assistant in the laboratory of biology and vegetal ecology of the University of the Comoros, where she works on the conservation and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. She is an active volunteer in her community, where she undertakes activities for the improvement of education, such as organizing student support courses, organizing English courses during holidays, and encouraging students and pupils who work well in class.
To fight deforestation, she focuses on soil protection and forest restoration activities by setting up a plant nursery project.
She is also a member of the Women in Marine Science Network (WiMS) which was launched to address gender inequality issues faced by female marine scientists in the Western Indian Ocean region.
She is involved in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development. As a member of the NGO SIDS Youth Aims Hub association (SYAH) in Comoros, she carries out activities in waste management, protection of mangroves, and actions towards adaptation and resilience to climate change.
As a member of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Alumni Comoros she is involved in youth empowering and community service.
“Getting together is a start, staying together is progress, working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Réseau Eau et Climat des Organisations de Jeunesse d’Afrique Centrale (RECOJAC)
Contact : email@example.com
Michele is a Phd candidate in International Cooperation at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon. She holds a Master’s degree in International Relations, with a specialization on International Communication and Public Action. She is engaged in social development issues such as water, climate, and environment. She currently works as a junior consultant on youth issues with the Global Water Partnership-Central Africa (GWP-Caf).
Her involvement with UNESCO includes membership of the YoU-CAN Ad-hoc steering group and the implementation of a project on Central African youth participation in the World Water Forum in Dakar 2022 which is financially supported by the UNESCO Central Africa office.
Since 2017, she is the president of the Water and Climate Network of Youth Organization of Central Africa (RECOJAC) which is present in six countries.
In 2015 she participated in the Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie: (Expert water and climate) for the 7th edition of the Francophone Youth Parliament (PFJ). From 2012 to 2016 she was the Central Africa Representative for the Youth Advisory Group of the African Ministers' Council for Water. From 2012 to 2015, she was the representative for Cameroon and Central Africa for the World Youth Parliament for Water. She has participated in international events such as the World Water Forum in 2012, the 8th UNESCO Youth Forum in 2013, the Budapest Water Summit in 2013, and the Climate Summit and Territories in 2015.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Africa Matters Initiative
Malek Abidi holds a Bachelor’s in Biotechnology & Environmental Management from the Faculty of Sciences Sfax-Tunisia and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Water Management and Sustainable Development. As a Program Ambassador for Africa Matters Initiatives in Tunisia she is committed to social activities that are undertaken for her community.
In the future, she hopes to start her own Social Enterprise and create opportunities for underrepresented people in her country by developing innovative systems, knowledge, and equipment for people to achieve shared prosperity. She believes it is her responsibility to defend environmental justice by creating content for youth and engaging them across Tunisia about global issues like climate change and water security. Malek is currently a member of the YoU-CAN Ad-hoc steering committee, a global initiative of UNESCO.
"We, youth learn how to make good and well-oriented decisions by making them ourselves, not by following orders; and so far through YoU-CAN we are working together on making long-term ones."
African Youth Climate Hub
Ismail is a Junior Executive Manager at the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection. He is in charge of the administrative support, production of analytical documents, logistical and financial support for the Mohammed VI Prize for the Climate and Sustainable Development. He is also coordinator of the African Youth Climate Hub in charge of its conceptualization and implementation. Ismail is a former analyst at the Moroccan Center for Strategic Studies and the African Federation for Strategic Studies.
Ismail holds an M.A. in International Studies and Diplomacy with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies from Al Akhawayn University.
“The impact of Climate Change is global, yet with specific patterns in each region of the world. Therefore, it is important to strengthen dialogue and promote the sharing of best practices in order to formulate a global response to address climate change. Young people have always shown great capacities of adaptation and innovative approaches to address issues. They are definitely the ones in a good position to formulate a global and innovative approach to address climate change, and YoU-CAN is the appropriate platform to do so.”
Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar
Neeshad is an Environmentalist, Speaker and Social Change Advocate. He was recognized as one of the ‘World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy 2019’ by Apolitical. Neeshad holds a Master’s degree in Energy and Environmental Engineering. He is based in Doha, Qatar and is an expert in analysing Global Environmental Politics and Climate Policies with a special focus on the Middle East. He is an active member of several global environmental youth groups and contributes actively to international summits, notably those organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
He is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar, a first, registered, independent, youth-led, grassroots non-profit association in the State of Qatar. His work in the Middle East region has supported the private sector, NGOs, governments, and multinational agencies in taking evidence-based decisions and delivering impact on the ground.
“To address Climate Change, we need to emphasize wide-scale advocacy, education and communication efforts to change young people’s perceptions and collective behaviour. We should aspire to transform how entire generations of youth think and act. So, I believe YoU-CAN is an important step towards making youth top of the agenda in terms of Climate Action.”
Asia and the Pacific
Dr. Daniel Mahadzir is a clinical nutritionist and epidemiologist working on planetary health, health systems and policy research. He is currently attached to the United Nations University International Institute for Global Health where he works on consulting regional health systems and policies in Western Pacific and South East Asia States. He is also the Director of Adeante Corporation, an investment holding company for green technology in Malaysia. Apart from his professional career, Daniel is passionate about climate change and youth empowerment. He is the current Curator for Global Shapers Community Kuala Lumpur, an initiative of the World Economic Forum.
He is also one of the founders of U-Inspire Malaysia, a UNESCO-endowed NGO working on climate change and disaster risk management. In 2019, Daniel was pinned as Asia Young Nutritionist at the Asian Congress of Nutrition and received Young Investigator Award from the Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity (MASO) for his work on clinical nutrition. He was also recognized as a Climate Reality Leader by Al Gore and selected to be part of the ad-hoc Steering Group of Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN). He is a proud alumnus of RMIT and Monash University in Australia.
“Climate emergency is everyone’s urgency. Being in UNESCO’s Youth Climate Action Network is a great opportunity for me to be a part of a collective and strong voice of young people in advocating for climate action. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much!”
UNESCO ASPNet Schools Network
Toru Tanigaki is a graduate student in language education in Japan. His fields of expertise are language education and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). He started learning ESD through ASPnet School activities. He has been involved in UNESCO activities for more than 6 years. He has shown strong commitment and demonstrated initiatives in promoting UNESCO activities such as ESD, Environmental Education, and Disaster Risk Reduction Education. As a representative of the UNESCO Club in his university years, and now as a young professional leader coordinating the youth activities of the Japanese Society of Education for Sustainable Development, ESD Japan Youth Community, and Kinki ESD Consortium, he has constantly played a leading role in motivating and mobilizing other youth to engage in UNESCO activities, often collaborating with ASPnet Schools and other institutions.
He also plays an active co-shaping role in the “ESD Teacher Program” which is a successful UNESCO initiative implemented by Kinki ESD Consortium in partnership with the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO since 2015. The program enrols young educational professionals (both in-service and pre-service teachers) from across Japan in a training to foster ESD Teachers, equipping them with the latest knowledge and skills concerning ESD and the SDGs, so that they can effectively design and implement ESD lessons in their schools.
He is strongly motivated to work as a steering committee member of the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN), with his rich experience and leadership throughout his engagement with UNESCO activities.
“Youth must play significant roles on climate action. And I believe that education is an important key to raise awareness and mobilize them to address climate action. YoU-CAN will be the first step for that. Now is the time to act!”
Young Earth Scientists (YES)
Meng is a Senior Geologist in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and president of the Young Earth Scientists (YES) Network which is an international scientific organization with more than 5000 members of young and early career earth scientists. He was nominated as the Executive Secretary of World Youth Scientist Summit (WYSS) 2019, which led the young generation of scientists to dialogue with senior scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators with strong support from the government, industries and scientific communities. He is currently leading several national and international scientific research projects on climate, environment, and industry.
Meng started his career in the Ministry of Land and Resources of China in policy counselling and management, and transferred to China Minmetals Group, which is a world leading company in mining industry, and then to the CAS in 2017. This has given him very good experience with government, industry, and science.
Meng is doing his second PhD in Geology in CAS and holds two bachelors and two master's degrees in Geology with Law and Economy. He completed the Master exchange program in the United Nations University (UNU) on Building Resilience to Climate Change.
“No one can talk about climate change without scientific research and the understanding of the history of the Earth. As young scientists, we are trying to offer a strong, real, and scientific background through our work on climate change and to support our action for the sustainable future. The implementation of Sustainable Development Goals in Agenda 2030 is huge and incredibly urgent work, especially during this global challenge and emergency for all young generations. This is not one person or country’s work ; we need to work together and start action right now. This is YoU-CAN”.
Europe and North America
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Irène is a final-year student in management at ESSEC Business School and she is also a research coordinator of CliMates; an international youth-led think-and-do tank on climate change gathering students and young professionals who take on the climate challenge by developing and promoting innovative ideas and tools, influencing decision-makers, and training youth to become change-makers. She’s passionate about culture, science, and education, which she regards as key empowerment levers to tackle climate change and collectively build a desirable, peaceful future.
"For most people, starting with myself, climate change is a highly complex and technical topic, both in terms of scientific and institutional mechanisms. In order to have our voices heard, shift responsibility and eventually avoid chaos, young people from all over the world have to become knowledge carriers of youth expertise on climate change and work together to reinvent the structures of power. I regard YoU-CAN as a great opportunity to achieve that purpose.”
Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife)
Alejandro was the first president of Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) Youth Steering Group, the first body established to reinforce youth climate action in Spain. During his mandate, scholarships dedicated to youth-lead climate action projects were established and the coordination of youth-led climate movements were enhanced. He was invited by the Spanish Prime Minister to act as the Spanish Young Ambassador to the first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit, where he collaborated in the draft of the Global Youth Climate Action Declaration. He was also highly involved in several of the COP25 events.
He is an environmental and cultural activist. In 2019 he was awarded with the National Philosophy Olympiad prize, and his book “Cuatro Meses en el Infierno” (2019) commentaries and articles have caused a notable impact.
"The Climate Crisis is more than an environmental urgency. It is also a social one. The consequences of our material greed are causing not only destructive effects on our planet, but also on our people. Temperature is rising at the same pace as inequality, species are disappearing as fast as opportunities. The time for a bold change has come. We need to build a future based on equity and in harmony with the environment. And that future, begins with our actions today."
Water Youth Network
Dr. Robert Sakic Trogrlic is the Vice President and a member of the Advisory Board of the Water Youth Network, a youth-led organization working on connecting youth in the water sector. He holds a PhD in Disaster Risk Reduction (UK), an MSc. in Flood Risk Management (The Netherlands/Germany), and an MEng. in Civil Engineering (Croatia). Robert’s expertise is in people-centred approaches to building climate and disaster resilience. Since 2015, he supports youth participation in global policy processes. In his professional capacity, he works as a Climate and Resilience Officer with Practical Action, an international development INGO working on ingenious solutions for tackling poverty.
“It’s about time that we turn words into action. The knowledge, drive, expertise, and motivation of youth is one of the greatest assets we have for building a climate resilient future. I see UNESCO’s Youth Climate Action Network as an excellent opportunity to build a collective and stronger voice of youth in delivering climate action that works for everyone.”
Water Youth Network
(Rasha Hassan has been the interim of Robert Sakic Trogrlic since January 2021 for the Water Youth Network)
Rasha is a PhD candidate in Natural Systems and Global Change at the University of Barcelona. This position is the result of extensive efforts in academia. Rasha has a BSc in civil engineering and an MSc in environmental systems engineering from Tishreen University, Syria. Her Master’s thesis about groundwater management was a milestone in her career and her doorway to the water sector. Then, she joined the Water and Coastal Management, Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Program at the University of Bologna. Subsequently, she worked for five years as an environmental engineer in the governmental sector in Syria.
Rasha is a member of many climate and water initiatives, including:
- Co-Coordinator of Water Governance Group, Water Youth Network.
- Chair of the Outreach and Partnership Working Group, Early-Career and Young Professionals Task Force, International Water Resources Association (IWRA);
- Middle East Representative at Youth Adaptation Network, Global Adaptation Centre, Netherlands;
- Content creator of Future Water Leader, Amsterdam International Water Week;
- Focal Point of Youth Consultation Committee at The Youth for the Rhine Project; and
- Volunteer in UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), and UN Major Group for Children and Youth (MGCY).
“In order to invest in the future, policymakers need to invest in youth and engage them in the policymaking process. Using a bottom-up approach will mainstream young people’s visions and insights for a better future. You-CAN is an example of a youth-led initiative in the climate change domain, which we will make sure to be effective, dynamic and fruitful.”
Latin America and the Caribbean
Education for Sustainable Development Youth Leaders (ESD Youth Leaders)
Curmira Gulston stands at the forefront of youth development in Trinidad and Tobago. She actively advocates for the improvement of the lives of the youth while embracing core values of integrity, innovation, and collaboration.
Curmira has an MSc. in Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management and a BSc. in Marine Biology and Conservation Biology. She represents the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Youth Ambassadors on the Ad-hoc YoU-CAN Steering Committee. She is director of Sustainable Solutions for Island Development and the former National Coordinator of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in Trinidad and Tobago.
Her academic and professional interests are multi-disciplinary. However, she has a strong passion for youth empowerment, water resource management, project management, marine and environmental management, sustainable development, disaster management, climate change mitigation, and special needs education.
She is currently employed at the United Nations in Trinidad and Tobago as a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer with a focus on Disaster Response and Reducing Violence against women and girls. Curmira believes that the most powerful tool in life is to be motivated and inspire people to be part of global solutions.
"Young persons have the potential and capacity to not only exchange ideas but to be the movers and shakers that will drive positive climate action."
Man and Biosphere Youth (MAB Youth)
Gabriela is an environmental activist and speaker. She is an active agent of change from the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. She studied Ecology and socio-eco systemic management. Over the last three years, she has been working in the environmental field, focusing on socio-environmental resilience, climate change, sustainable cities and Renewable Energy.
Since 2017, she has worked with the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme through the Galapagos Biosphere Reserve and had the privilege to be part of the Delegation of Ecuador for the First MAB Youth Forum in Italy.
In 2018, She co-created the Ibero-American and Caribbean Biosphere Reserve Youth Network (MAB) Programme with the vision of oﬀering an opportunity to young people to become active in the MAB Programme and to contribute to sustainable development in their communities, promoting actions related to SDGs, biodiversity, and climate change resilience.
In 2019, together with other people from Latin America and the Caribbean, she created the Young Leaders in Protected Areas Network (RELLAC-Joven). She is a One Young World Counsellor in One Young World, a member of the Youth Assembly, and in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas.
“Biosphere Reserves are authentic observatories for resilience to climate change. They provide and support the provision of data and climate information services notably on water security, earth sciences, biodiversity, and the ocean, and will spearhead interdisciplinary work on ecosystem services.
It´s an honour for me to be the Global Youth MAB Network Delegate at the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN). Our generation not only has the responsibility to be the protagonist of change by sharing the transformation and impact that we have promoted, but we also must sit at the negotiation table. Participate, speak up and connect with other young people around the world are key. Let’s change our minds to ensure real climate action!”
Earth Charter Young Learders
Ana Karen is an activist and speaker for climate change and sustainable development. She is the co-founder and project coordinator of the Climate Change Youth Network of Costa Rica, where she works to articulate, support, and develop climate action through activism, political advocacy, and education. As a member of the Earth Charter Young Leaders of The Earth Charter International, she promotes Education for Sustainable Development for children and youth. Additionally, she belongs to the scout movement in Costa Rica, where she leads the minor section with children from 7 to 11 years old.
Ana Karen holds a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution, Peace and Development from the UN mandated University for Peace, and works as an independent consultant managing projects on Sustainable Development.
“We have just one planet, one home to live, that's why Climate Change matters for everyone: because our home and our future are in danger. Youth have an important responsibility to join efforts working to rebuild a better world for future generations and the only way to do it systematically is through education. YoU-CAN is a global and multidisciplinary young team that works to achieve climate action starting from education and intersectoral participation.”
YoU-CAN’s project team is a cross-sectoral team made up of members from the Social and Human Sciences (SHS) and Natural Sciences (SC) Sectors. The Project Team includes Abou Amani, Anna Bonetti, Anil Mishra, Nicole Webley, Angela Melo, Kristina Balalovska, Claudia Maresia, and Manon Frezouls. UNESCO’s Field Offices also played an integral role in the creation of YoU-CAN and will continue to do so during its operationalization.
For queries regarding the YoU-CAN initiative, or if you wish to be involved in or support the Network, contact the project team at email@example.com
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These networks support YoU-CAN’s operationalization:
- Africa Matters Initiative
- African Youth Climate Hub
- Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar
- Earth Charter International Young Leaders
- REES Africa
- Réseau eau et climat des organisations de jeunes d’Afrique Centrale (RECOJAC)
- SIDS Youth AIMS Hub (SYAH)
- UInspire Alliance
- UNESCO ASPnet
- UNESCO ESD Youth Leaders
- UNESCO Global MAB Youth Network
- Water Youth Network
- Young Earth Scientists (YES) Network