The Long Road to COP from a Malaysian Youth Perspective

The Long Road to COP from a Malaysian Youth Perspective

By Farhana Shukor
18 / 03 / 2023
Farhana Shukor speaking about Loss and Damage at a COP28 side event in Dubai. Image credit: © Farhana Shukor.

Understanding COP Through an Analogy

When asked about the Conference of the Parties (COP), my peers likened it to an international parliament or circus. It evokes the image of a Raya (Eid) open house where everyone is invited and cousins of different ages mingle. The younger ones play together,  while the older ones prefer to interact with like-aged relatives. At times,  older cousins might tease the younger ones, but overall, there’s a sense of togetherness. Finally, it wouldn't be Raya without the tradition of giving and receiving duit Raya (Eidi), where everyone eagerly anticipates what they will find in their envelopes. The amount may vary depending on the closeness of the relationship with the relative.

COP alternatively resembles an international parliament, with numerous meetings conducted simultaneously, which can overwhelm first-time attendees. The volume of activities during COP inside and outside the venue cannot be underestimated.

Having had the opportunity to attend COP since 2021, I have been closely following the loss and damage (L&D) negotiations. These opportunities can be attributed to luck, preparation, and seizing opportunities. Preparation involves continuous learning, while opportunities arise from working with respected and inspiring individuals and funding opportunities.

In that sense, I feel blessed to contribute and collaborate with multiple stakeholders, which informs my purpose in attending COP—to understand the decision-making process better and engage with other parties.

Stakeholder Engagement in Understanding Loss and Damage

Though the Paris Agreement lists only five items under Article 8 on L&D, attending the discussions and meetings at COP can be daunting because it often feels like a legal background is necessary to understand the texts better. However, I have come to realise that I have to approach this topic from where I am rather than where I think I should be – as an expert.

As a keen learner, I have found it easier to engage with other stakeholders by discussing priorities and pertinent matters. This is particularly true, especially when interacting with my country’s delegation.

Financial and Time Challenges at COP

Attending COP is expensive, especially for youth advocates from the global south. It requires funding assistance not only to attend COP but also to afford day-to-day needs such as eating and travelling. Though there are some funding opportunities, they are highly competitive and not always equitably distributed. For instance, it was reported that the most significant climate foundations only give out 0.76% of grants to youth-led action, with U.S. climate justice groups receiving 16 times more funding than the global average.  

Another aspect that is often overlooked aside from the funding is time. It is a privilege and a sacrifice because. Personally, I’ve used my annual leave at work to attend COP and even taken an unpaid leave in some instances. With that in mind, attending COP is a choice not many are able to make. Thus, the financial assistance that made my COP attendance possible drives me to make the most out of my participation at the conference.

These challenges become barriers that limit diversity of background and perspective. However, being part of an international coalition facilitates discussions and exchange of ideas, breaking down these barriers. My engagement in the New Generation Fellowship Program on Loss and Damage, where I am connected with mentors, has provided invaluable insights and guidance.

Furthermore, coupling this with engaging with fellow Malaysian youth advocates on various climate topics has been instrumental in developing a Malaysian perspective on L&D and identifying possible action items. This collaborative approach ensures a more comprehensive understanding and allows for more effective advocacy.

Empowering Youth for Effective COP Engagement

In conclusion, the presence of more Malaysian youths at COP28 representing various interest groups was exciting and encouraging. Their diverse action areas and perspectives sparked a vibrant exchange with other Malaysian stakeholders, particularly in sharing the multitude of youth-led initiatives back home.

Effective engagement can be significantly facilitated by increased funding shares allocated to Malaysian youths and other global south youths. This is crucial because the future lies in collaborative actions rather than individual ones. By investing in the youth and empowering them to participate actively in initiatives like COP, we pave the way for more impactful and sustainable solutions to global challenges.

Farhana Shukor is a co-founder of Bumii, a Malaysian startup focusing on facilitating climate action. Her experience in a hard-to-abate industry and her risk management and insurance background inform her approach to finding climate solutions and navigating stakeholder engagements. Currently an Advisor at the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) and a member of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition (LDYC), she supports youth climate advocates' empowerment and capacity building to enhance mobilisation. She has attended international climate conferences and has tracked loss and damage finance-related negotiations and issues.