Climate justice and democracy in focus of youth seminar in Greece

The seminar's climate activists marching in Epirus. Picture: Johannes Dellian/CUNCR
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Last week I attended a training and networking event for Youth Climate Ambassadors in the Epirus mountains in Greece. The event was sponsored by the Center for United Nations Constitutional Research (CUNCR) based in Brussels, and took place from 22-26 July 2019.

There were 17 youth activists, covering every inhabited continent, accompanied by a team of academics and experts – overall 26 nations were represented. Amongst the experts were two representatives from Democracy Without Borders – Ivone Soares, a Member of Parliament from Mozambique and the Pan-African Parliament, and John Vlasto from the UK.

Photo: Johannes Dellian/CUNCR

The group gathered in Corfu for an introductory day, before moving to The Land Beyond, a beautiful retreat in the Epirus mountains. Day two outlined the current state of global climate governance, including a presentation by Ivone Soares on her reforestation work in Mozambique. Day three considered how global governance could be improved, and in particular the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) proposal, introduced by John Vlasto. Day four consisted of a brainstorming session to produce a declaration (reproduced below) and a plan of action (the details of which are being finalised). The final day was spent hiking the dramatic Vikos Gorge, the deepest in the world, before concluding with an inspiring talk from Domènec Ruiz Devesa, a Spanish Member of the European Parliament and long-time supporter of a UNPA – a fitting conclusion to a productive and enjoyable week.

The climate crisis requires democratising global governance

A broad consensus emerged that effectively addressing the climate crisis requires democratising global governance and that the most realistic, well-defined, and widely supported route to doing so is the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as a stepping stone towards a World Parliament.

With a poetic flourish Sam Deese put it this way:

“For the butterfly to take flight, it must tear open the shelter of the chrysalis and leave it behind. What had been a shelter would become a sarcophagus if this process did not take place. The nation state, which has sheltered democracy for centuries, will become its sarcophagus if democratic institutions are not allowed to grow and evolve beyond the narrow scope of national borders.”

And as Domènec Ruiz Devesa pointed out:

“On 22 July 2019, Secretary General Guterres called all Member States to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050. Only intergovernmental cooperation will not be enough to achieve it. We need a more political United Nations. First and foremost, we need to set up the United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA), as proposed by federalist companions Andreas Bummel and Jo Leinen, and the World Federalist Movement overall.”

Whilst CUNCR advocates a Charter review conference based on Article 109 Paragraph 3 of the UN Charter (the “San Francisco promise”) as the route to a UNPA, most supporters of the official UNPA Campaign believe that having it set up by the UN General Assembly according to Article 22 might be an easier first step and that this in turn may pave the ground towards Charter review – but neither party is going to mind if the other is proved right!

Photo: Johannes Dellian/CUNCR

Judging by the ongoing WhatsApp chat, the summit certainly achieved its goal of creating a vibrant team in a short period of time. It was a tremendous opportunity for Youth Climate Ambassadors to meet and learn from each other and from the assembled academics and experts. In addition, the academics and experts could not only brainstorm amongst themselves, but had the privilege of learning from and being inspired by youth activists at the (carbon neutral) coalface.

This Climate Justice event was first run by CUNCR two years ago, exclusively for academics and experts, and attracted around 12 attendees. Last year there were 25, and this year, with the invaluable addition of youth activists, there were 50. Many congratulations to Shahr-yar Sharei and his team, and thanks to all the local support in Greece including the Corfu Reading Society and The Land Beyond, for this unique opportunity. May the CUNCR Climate Democracy and Justice Summits continue to grow and develop long into the future.

Climate Democracy Declaration of Epirus

On 24th of July 2019 we planetary citizens, representing all the continents, have gathered to demand representation in global decision-making on challenges, such as the climate crisis, which affect us all. To achieve this we demand: the creation of a United Nations parliament representing everyone; an executive to complement this legislature; and, to ensure justice, the creation of a world court with the competency to prosecute environmental crimes, holding states, corporations, other non-state actors and individuals accountable with universal jurisdiction.

In a world of effective global governance, resources currently dedicated to national security must be redirected to global security, and in particular living sustainably in our planet. It should be a human right to enjoy a healthy environment, and our duty to protect the rights of the environment for the future generations.

As the legitimate forum to achieve these democratic ideals, we urgently demand that the San Francisco Promise be upheld to convene the United Nations Charter review and renewal process.

Let “we the peoples” govern the world!

John Vlasto
John is an Associate of Democracy Without Borders in the UK
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