COY 7 and Desmond Tutu’s Climate Faith Rally

Saturday was the second day of the Conference of Youth, which kicked off with presentations from some international youth about climate activism/progress in their respective countries. The stories coming out of Australia, the Philippines as well as the African youth caravan were so inspiring; they re-energized my passion for climate activism and gave me some great ideas for campaigns and actions to use back home. The caravan also performed for us in the morning, singing Zulu songs and, of course, dancing – the performance moved me to tears. Next we had an anti-oppression, assumedly a first for most in the audience, which challenged people to think outside of their comfort zones and consider how they have been historically oppressed in terms of gender, class, etc. From what I experienced, the session opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes to things they’d never considered before; it also brought people closer together as they shared personal stories about their beliefs and struggles in life. We then headed to some morning workshops; I chose to attend one explaining UNFCCC processes at an intermediate level. The workshop helped me understand further how COPs are set up and provided more insight on which working group(s) I’d be interested in joining.

At lunch, a large group of us got together to learn dance moves to Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” which we performed as a flash mob – this was probably my favorite part of COY! I loved dancing with all the other youth, learning and teaching the moves as well as watching others (ahem, Luke from the UKYCC) rock out Shakira-style. After lunch we had another workshop session before breaking out into working groups, which focus on a certain part of COP. I had a hard time deciding which group to join – adaptation, mitigation and human rights were all top choices – but I ended up going to the gender working group because I thought it would need more people and that it sounded like something I could get really involved in without getting really overwhelmed or depressed during COP. I don’t think I will stay with the gender group, though, as it’s just not what I’m 100% interested in; I’d like to get involved with some of the aforementioned groups as well.

The last part of COY involved us all walking to Davenport Rd. for some social time at the local restaurants and whatnot. A large group (50+) ended up at a Moroccan restaurant and we all hung out in the back bar area, ordering lots of drinks and food – I saw a lot of bunny chow at the various tables! I hopped around and met/conversed with a lot of new people, some from formal delegations like the British Council while others were simply attending COY because they’re from Durban. By the time the checks came out prompting us to leave, a lot of us weren’t ready to end the night just yet so the Tekweni peeps and I invited everyone to come back to our hostel for drinking, dancing and hanging out in general. We partied for a fair amount of the night – it was a great time, probably the last big social event before two weeks of stressing out during COP.

On Sunday morning, we all woke up early and prepared for the last day of COY, but I ended up spending the day with the New Zealand group, which decided to skip COY to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s rally and concert at Moses Mabhida Stadium. We had breakfast at Europa, a great restaurant right around the corner from Tekweni, then walked to the stadium and arrived around noon. The concert wasn’t really what I’d expected: it had a lot of local acts, as well as speeches from various religious leaders. I still had a great time, though, and loved being exposed to new arts and perspectives. My favorite part of the concert was the end when Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed – Simon from the NZYD and I went down on the field and up to the stage, then got super wet while dancing in the rain. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, though – I got within ten feet of Desmond Tutu!

Sunday night closed with a bunch of us – UK, NZ, Canada – gathered around the info desk in an impromptu work hub, preparing for COP but also goofing around and having fun together. It’s been a great lead-up to COP – we’ll see how the next two weeks go!

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