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Exchanges between young people and professionals in the field of international relations are not systematic nor are they the subject of any national strategy; nonetheless, through ad hoc or annual events, young people have the opportunity to find out about global issues as well as receive training from professionals in their own countries.
The Ministry in charge of Foreign Affairs’ “Ambassadors’ Week”
Ambassadors’ Week (Semaine des ambassadeurs) is an annual event which, among other things, helps the public discover what ambassadors do and better understand major diplomatic issues and topics.
It provides an occasion for French ambassadors to debate with elected representatives, experts and representatives of civil society and the private sector. The general public is also given the opportunity to meet diplomatic staff and attend roundtables.
The Convergences Forum
The Convergences Forum / Forum Convergences is an annual, multi-party event that promotes the Sustainable Development Goals and the fight against poverty and climate change in countries dubbed “Northern and Southern”. More than 200 partner organisations from civil society and the non-governmental, public and private sectors take part every year. The French Development Agency / Agence française du développement (AFD) is the main partner of this forum. It is also supported by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment. The forum brings together international participants, including political decision-makers and students, who meet to build common solutions to social and environmental issues and to strengthen the international partnerships formed to promote the powerful idea of “zero exclusion, zero carbon, zero poverty”.
The Climate Change Conference COP and the Conference of Youth for the Climate
The aim of the Conference of Youth for the Climate is to arrive at a set of clear rules for applying the Paris Agreement, which was negotiated in 2015 during the COP21 on the climate. The COY (Conference of Youth) was held before the COP and brought together several thousand young people from across the world to debate, discuss and find solutions to climate change.
Every year, young French people take part in the COY, particularly through the associations involved in fighting climate change.
The Conference of Youth that took place in November 2015 (COY 11) during the COP 21 (Paris Climate Conference) provided the opportunity for international decision-makers to meet young people.
The European Convention for the Climate
The Citizens’ Convention for the Climate was a unprecedented participative experiment that took place in France. It aimed to give voice to citizens in order to “accelerate the pace of the fight against climate change”. The convention was asked to come up with a set of measures that would enable us to achieve a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990). It was made up of 150 people, including young people (16 years or above), all selected at random.
After an initial discussion with the French president on 10th January 2020, the members of the Citizen’s Convention were invited to return to the Élysée presidential offices on Monday 29th June to present their proposals.
The idea is that the 149 proposals made will be submitted for consideration by the government or the parliament, or directly to citizens via a referendum.
The meetings at the summit between young people and political decision-makers are not intended to result in specific and systematic policies or schemes. However, the young people can take part in international conferences addressing global issues where the different stakeholders meet to debate and construct policies and decisions collectively. These include the public decision-makers, associations, non-governmental organisations, businesses and civil society.
Youth Ambassadors for Community Service
The United States Embassy introduced a programme in 2008 to invite young people to the United Nations headquarters for a two-week programme known as “Youth Ambassadors for Community Service”. This is aimed at secondary school pupils who are actively involved in an association (paid or voluntary).The initiative aims to encourage youth participation in the political process, strengthen civic engagement and develop intercultural dialogue.
During their stay, the youth ambassadors are invited to represent France in the United States and exchange viewpoints on such subjects as cultural diversity, equal opportunities and community service.
French youth delegations at international summits
Every two years, delegations of young French-speakers take part in the Francophonie summit that brings together the heads of state and government of the French-speaking nations. In particular, they are invited to attend the international conference of young French-speakers, specifically for them. During this event, the young people are invited to reflect on the themes of the summit.
For example, during the 17th Francophonie Summit in Erevan on 11 October 2018, 500 young people from five continents got together to discuss the theme of “living together in solidarity, sharing humanist values and respecting diversity as a source of peace and prosperity for the French-speaking world”. They also discussed the ways and means of supporting “the economic and financial inclusion of young people”.
Additionally, during this summit, the young people were asked to present a Declaration of Young French-speakers which emphasised the important role played by young people in finding solutions to global issues (solidarity, peace, protecting the environment, etc.) and crises.
In 2018, these young French-speakers recommended that the “operators of the French-speaking world, the international institutions and States and Governments” should:
- Guarantee quality education for all;
- Combat unemployment and promote professional insertion for young people;
- Protect the environment and biodiversity and combat climate change;
- Contribute to promoting the idea of Living together, building peace and the other values upheld by the French-speaking world.
United Nations Climate Action Summit
There is also space for young people to take part in international events such as the UN Climate Action Summit, on 23 September 2019. On this occasion, CNAJEP, which unites over 70 non-formal education movements, sent a youth delegate to the summit. Notably, he was invited to form part of the cross-ministerial team for climate change negotiations for France.