Inviting young people to YELL about the environment
04 August 2022
Youth Environment Living Labs (YELL) to strengthen youth-led environmental action rooted in local, indigenous and traditional knowledge
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with Amanah Lestari Alam (ALAM) today launched Phase 2 of the Youth Environment Living Labs (YELL), to reimagine youth participation in climate and environmental action across Malaysia.
“Young people are the most vulneable group when it comes to climate change, but their voices have been ignored for far too long. I hope to see more inclusive and transparent children and youth participation in decision-making processes,” said Mogesh Sababathy, 24, youth climate advocate.
The event celebrated the completion of Phase 1 of YELL in 2021, while highlighting opportunities as it entered the next phase. In Phase 2, youth-led environmental groups are invited to participate in developing narratives on climate change that is rooted in local, indigenous and traditional knowledge alongside impactful projects that respond to community-based environmental needs.
“Children, especially those from poor communities will bear the biggest brunt of climate change. Children are also the most determined to take urgent action to undo the damage. Climate change is not only happening in distant polar ice caps. Climate change is happening here, where we are now, and our stories must reflect that. YELL is an essential and welcome platform for young people to draw attention to the lived realities they face in their homes and communities” said Amanda Bissex, Representative a.i. for UNICEF in Malaysia.
The Change for Climate report released in 2020 found that Malaysian youth are eager to act on climate and environmental issues. However, some gaps remain, such as the lack of local narratives and local entry points that can help young people take their first steps in environmental action. From consultation with young people at the inception of YELL, it was found that youth-oriented environmental programmes are largely focused on doing, without much space for documentation, learning, and reflection. Green careers remain unpopular due to perceived low viability. Youth-led environmental organizations also struggle with issues of sustainability.
“The genesis of YELL is for young people to have a platform to express their aspirations. We hope that YELL will empower youth to engage positively on climate change issues, rethink ways to raise awareness, act on climate issues, and contribute to local solutions,” said Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
YELL aims to strengthen the ecosystem of youth environmental leaders through capacity building for evidence-based advocacy and through work exposure and skills-building opportunities. Partners are invited to work together to provide skills and opportunities for youth leaders.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between UNDP and Amanah Lestari Alam (ALAM), an organization set up by Bank Pembangunan Malaysia with a mission to transform mindsets and change behaviors of Malaysians through environmental education. Together with UNICEF, YELL will be a flagship initiative under the MOU, with the purpose to strengthen youth-led climate action.
YELL has also embarked on a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to engage rural youth on environmental entrepreneurship projects through the Social Entrepreneurship for Rural Youths (SERY) initiative. Additionally, YELL is working with Impact Malaysia on building local awareness of climate change and environmental action among youth from across the country.
“We believe that educating young people creates lasting impact, not just to the individual but to the community as well – like engraving in stone. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this MOU we have signed with YELL will enhance our efforts as a team to create a more sustainable environment” said Datuk Ali Tan Sri Abdul Kadir, Chairman of Amanah Lestari Alam.
The launch event held at Rimba Ilmu, Universiti Malaya included an exhibition featuring achievements from YELL Phase 1 that began in July 2021. The exhibition featured #BumiBelia Stories Competition, stories from the field, and highlights the initiatives and actions of members from the YELL Network across Malaysia. There was also a networking session discussing opportunities for participating in YELL Phase 2. The event concluded with a learning session on living labs at the Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden jointly conducted by the host, Rimba Ilmu, and the UNDP Accelerator Lab Malaysia.
YELL Phase 1 (2021) brought together a network of over 200 entities across diverse sectors in support of climate and environmental action, while developing directories, toolkits and resources to support young environmental heroes. In YELL Phase 2 (from 2022), YELL will provide seed funding for citizen science and action learning projects, support green careers and skill-building, and work with young people to (re)discover local and traditional knowledge.
YELL is being piloted in Malaysia with the intention to scale across Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, forming a cross-country network whose actions for climate and the environment are rooted in the values, cultural norms, and local/traditional ecological knowledge of this region.
In April 2022, YELL was selected as one of three global winners of the UNICEF-UNDP Green Shark Challenge, a global challenge designed to unleash the creativity, experience, and skills of UN staff to respond to global environmental challenges.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
UNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet.
ALAM is a national initiative with the mission to transform the mind-set and change the behaviours of Malaysians on the environment. ALAM aims to create awareness, educate on the change and instil whistle blowing culture on environment by collaborating with the public sectors, private sectors and civil societies, in addition to advocating policy by working with and providing a meaningful bridge between industry players and policy makers for improved governance and impactful delivery of initiatives.