A group of people posing against an RCOY backdrop

Let our actions flow for tomorrow

Attended by more than 300 youth delegates from all over the world, the Regional Conference of Youth (RCOY) Asia and Pacific happened in the Philippines last 9-13 August 2022 at Ormoc City and Baybay City, Leyte.

RCOY 2022 is a prelude to the Conference of Youth (COY) 17, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 27 in Egypt, and UN Water Conference 2023 in New York. RCOY2022 gathered insights of young people in the region related to climate and water. It brought awareness to the participants who came up with a youth declaration that will be presented at the aforementioned international events. 

The event was organised by UN1FY, YOUNGO, United Nations World Meteorological Organization (UN WMO), in collaboration with the City Government of Baybay, City Government of Ormoc, Provincial Government of Leyte and the British Council. Six (three Indonesians and three Filipinos) attended as British Council delegates.

Read about the experience of our delegates below.

A bespectacled woman in white shirt and khaki trousers, ankle-deep in the mud with peers planting in the background
A dance performance for RCOY
Lucy Torres-Gomez, a Filipino politician, stands on the podium to deliver her message for RCOY

The week in action by Mark Jacinto, Philippines

The first official day of the regional conference started with a bang as host organisers, together with the Ormoc City government, formally welcomed the 300+ young leaders and delegates, showcasing the Philippines’ warmth and hospitality. 

Ormoc City Mayor Lucy Torres-Gomez officially welcomed the delegates and partners. Together with the councillors and officers of the city government, she handed out plaques of appreciation to the organisers for trusting the city to host the conference. YOUNGO Representatives Xam Northcott, Elizabeth Gulugulu and UN WMO Director for Services Johan Stander provided remarks to open the programme.

Day 2 featured a panel discussion on the current state of the climate and water in Asia and the Pacific. Various officials from YOUNGO, UN1FY, UN WMO, and other organisations discussed trends, opportunities and challenges surrounding climate and water issues. The British Council then hosted a one-hour session highlighting the importance of language education to climate education.

British Council in the Philippines Head of Education Pierre Pecson and British Council in Indonesia Director for English, Education and Society Colm Downes focused on the ASEAN Youth Engagement on Climate Research Project. They highlighted the importance of TV, radio and social media to increase awareness on the climate crisis, and noted the value of teachers’ interest on the subject matter.

A thematic breakout session followed, focusing on different themes and elements that would build the Youth Declaration. The breakout sessions were on: 

  1. Youth representation and engagement 
  2. Climate change in the water sector, water access, sanitation 
  3. Governance, policy and management 
  4. Awareness and capacity

Through the breakout session, delegates learned and shared insights on the different themes and built collaborations and connections with fellow participants.

Highlighting the week-long conference was the Governor’s night. Hosted by the provincial government of Leyte, performers and artists proudly featured the rich and diverse culture of the Philippines, particularly the Eastern Visayas region. 

Mid-week of RCOY, a tree planting activity was held at Lake Danao, a protected area of Ormoc City. International delegates appreciated the pristine environment at the lake as they conducted the carbon offsetting activity. After the tree planting, delegates had a short but sweet fellowship to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the lake. After the activity, delegates went back to the Superdome to listen to another plenary session, focusing on climate financing, climate ambition, research and capacity building. 

In the afternoon, local delegates drafted the Youth Declaration. International delegates proceeded to the Baybay and Naungan Coastal Areas for another carbon offsetting activity through mangrove planting. Most had to walk barefoot through mud to reach the mangrove planting area to show commitment to protecting the planet. By night-time, everyone was working on their declarations.

On the last day, delegates travelled to the beautiful city of Baybay and received a warm welcome from the city’s cultural dancers at their Convention Center. Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos Cari welcomed the delegates and highlighted the youth’s role in responding to the climate crisis. 

The National Youth Commissioner for Visayas Assistant Secretary Christine Lim Escober-Cari also welcomed the delegates and introduced the commission’s plans to mobilise the Filipino youth in responding to the crisis. Representatives from UN WMO, UN1FY, and YOUNGO also encouraged the youth to act for water and climate. The delegates also learned about the intersectionality of peace and climate crisis to the development of our country. 

To close the plenary sessions, speakers and organisers summarised insights and comments for all sessions, including the session of the British Council. A short caravan and rolling tour followed for the delegates to enjoy the city of Baybay. 

RCOY ended with the launching of the youth declarations tackling all the thematic areas. It was followed by more fellowship activities, festive music and dancing. Despite the long ride back to Ormoc, the delegates enjoyed their last night together and brought new light to act on the climate crisis. 

Congratulations to everyone for a successful conference!  May this event be a catalyst for us in acting for water and climate.

Voices of the youth by Arief Virgy, Indonesia

As one of the Indonesian delegates who attended the event, I was excited to join the conference because I could meet participants around Asia and the Pacific.

It was an opportunity for representatives to learn new knowledge on the importance of youth participation in climate policy making because young people have the right to a healthy environment and access to clean water today and in the future. Unfortunately, young people's participation in creating climate policy is lacking. Often, building climate policies are more of a token, drawn without paying attention to the voices of the youth.

Thus, RCOY delegates urged stakeholders to seriously consider the youth participation when creating climate policies. The delegates also demanded for:

  • the UN to influence the government of all countries and involve young leaders in climate policymaking. The UN also needs to ensure that they monitor all countries regarding the implementation of climate policies.
  • the government of each country to take serious investments in funding research works to get more reliable data that can improve climate policy quality.
  • the private sector to implement responsible production ways to ensure sustainability principles are implemented in their work. They should guarantee that their production would not harm the environment. They should also fund climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives.
  • all stakeholders to build a Private-Partnership mechanism to strengthen all sustainable development aims and create stronger cooperation for all sectors.

RCOY 2022 made me realise that as global citizens, we have the same problems in tackling the climate crisis. Thus, we must cooperate more to achieve SDGs and leave no one behind. Let’s collaborate on our actions to solve our challenges.

Distant yet connected by Lester Dellosa, Philippines

Traveling almost 500 kilometres, two plane rides, and multiple bus rides to RCOY 2022 made me realise I am not alone.

RCOY 2022 with 300+ youth leaders as participants, and a percentage of international delegates from the US, UK, Africa, Middle East, and Asia meant that they too travelled. Tiring it may be, distance is never a concern for the young people convening for climate change. We’re all aware and affected, and all are connected.

During the week-long event, I made sure to engage and interact with as many youth leaders as I could. Gathering insights and solutions that may be replicated on a local level, creating bonds that will potentially lead to a partnership or collaboration. 

Each engagement was fruitful but what stood out most was despite being a diverse delegation, Indonesian youth seemed to be doing what Brunei youth leaders are in sustainability. Iraqi youth leaders are forwarding similar issues that are also present in Malaysia. African youth leaders experience the same as others do on the other side of the world. The feeling was mutual – these young leaders may be oceans apart, yet they are connected by how they feel about climate change. They have made and are making solutions to combat the crisis.

Living in the Philippines, an archipelago of thousands of islands, always makes me feel that I’m far from other things. Yet youth leaders flying from their countries to connect, to convene for one world concern is breath-taking. This is a manifestation that the youth is ready, capable and willing. 

My major takeaways for RCOY 2022 are:

  • Young people do not lack talent and creativity. We just do not have equal access to safety and resources to make the world a better place.  
  • What is happening in the Philippines has an equivalent in a neighbouring country or somewhere in the world. We are all experiencing the same effects of climate change. Solutions can be replicated and localised.
  • Collective effort matters. Although distant from one another, youth leaders all over the world are multiplying their efforts to make a bigger impact. Any amount of effort, whether small or big, if done collectively, helps. 
  • Our collective actions still have a long way to go. We need to make political leaders accountable for their actions and have them support climate policies. Even corporations need to be accountable for their actions.
  • Gathering youth leaders like RCOY 2022 is an effective solution but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Acting on the solutions is another matter.
  • We’re all connected not just to what is happening but even with the solutions we are doing. 

My initiatives as an environmentalist revolve around sustainable fashion and the art and design industry. I was able to share the stories and projects I’ve pushed for during RCOY 2022. The event  showed me perspectives I can explore more through partnership projects or in collaboration with other countries. With modern technology, a country aiding another with similar issues could lead to significant solutions. Like the song, ‘Near, far, wherever you are…’ you are not alone, we’re all fighting for a better tomorrow.

Elevating grassroots by Samuel Levi Opa, Indonesia

This is my first international conference experience and my first time visiting the Philippines – the country is just at the top of Sulawesi Island. I’ve done a lot of climate initiatives with my grassroots youth communities in North Sulawesi, and one of these initiatives is funded by the British Council's Youth Engagement COP26: Challenge Funds for Young People. Being able to participate as a delegate from Indonesia is an honour.

As a youth myself, I am aware that young people are becoming more aware of the hazards and difficulties posed by the climate issue and the chance for sustainable development can provide a solution to the problem. The extraordinary global mobilisation of young people demonstrates our enormous potential to hold policymakers accountable.

Not only are young people affected by climate change, but we are also essential actors in the fight against the climate crisis. We are agents of change. We are stepping up our efforts and utilising our capabilities to accelerate climate action, whether through education, science, or technology. Here at RCOY-APAC, we shared a lot of information about the current situation in our country. We learned about how the seasons are changing in Cambodia, how the Mekong River is drying up and the declines in agricultural productivity in Laos from conversations we had with other delegates. We heard about the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda, the major flooding in Vietnam, how armed conflict prevents Myanmar from tackling climate change, the persistent poverty in the Philippines, and even how snow is melting quickly off the mountains in Nepal.

These are my key takeaways from the conference: 

  • The youth does not lack talent and creativity. We just don’t have equal access to safety and resources to make the world a better place. 
  • Action from young people is just as vital as outside support.
  • Young people need to be seen and heard regarding water and climate issues.

We're only going to be here for a little while, now is the time to start taking care of our world.