Transnational Green Democracy: Learning from Kenya’s next generation of environmental leaders

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Drought, deforestation, lack of access to clean water and green energy sources. This is just a snapshot of some of the environmental challenges faced by communities in rural Kenya, and shared by participants of Kenya’s first Green Academy. The Green Academy brings together 21 young people from different backgrounds and diverse regions of the country with the goal of provoking a strong awakening on green values amongst youth. These are young people living on the front lines of climate change and eager to do something about it.

As in many countries worldwide, young people in Kenya feel excluded from politics and distrust politicians who are dictating the decisions that shape their futures. Despite young people (0-34 years) comprising 75% of Kenya’s population, they represent just 6.5% of MPs in parliament. So what is blocking their entry? The picture is multifaceted, but key hurdles include socioeconomic status, lack of support from political parties, and lack of democratic culture during nominations. For women, entry into politics is even more limited because it is an unsafe and hostile environment permeated by sexual harassment.

The Green Congress of Kenya is one political party in Kenya that is trying to change this, forefronting young voices on their Executive and launching a Green Academy to invest in young people with a shared interest in sustainability and climate change politics. Launched on 19 March 2021, the Academy aims to build capacities via 3 weekends of training delivered by experts in environmental and social justice arenas in Kenya, Africa and Europe, and to equip participants with the practical skills to better understand how they can make politics work for them. Crucially, this is a programme grown and owned by young people, led by Project Coordinators Anika Dorothy and Harold Mugozi from the Green Congress of Kenya, alongside Alice Hubbard from the Green Party of England and Wales. The programme is inspired by the Young Greens of England and Wales 30 under 30 programme and previous Green Academy programme in North Macedonia.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial elements of this collaboration is the mutual transnational learning exchange gained from partnerships between Green Parties, across continents and regions. The programme provides an opportunity to learn from those leading the environmental movement in Kenya, and to bring lessons back – including success stories of pushing the World Bank to withdraw funding from coal mining, sustaining organic farming during drought, and initiating environmental programmes in schools pushing for 10% tree cover of the entire country. As climate change transcends borders, the facilitation of cross-border exchange and collective action with diverse communities needs to be at the heart of tackling the climate crisis.

Such cross-border exchange should also serve as a wake up call to remind us that issues of climate in the Global North are not the same as those in the Global South. Whilst these geographical terms also fail to encapsulate the complexity of issues faced by different communities, countries and regions, ultimately, those in the Global South will suffer as a result of the actions and emissions of those in the Global North, whilst comparatively contributing to them to a significantly less extent. It is high time that we start to put the voices of those in the Global South, and particularly the youth, at the centre of action on climate change, whilst also resourcing climate interventions at the community level.

Young people should not have to pay the price for decisions made by others. With a unique ethical and moral claim on the future, we need to invest more energy into supporting young people and meaningfully recognising their contributions and actions – actively pushing for change and sustainable futures.

The first Green Academy training launch took place from 19-20st March. The next training weekends will take place in April and May of 2021, where participants will develop their public speaking and campaigning skills. The Green Academy is funded by Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Alice Hubbard is one of the founding members of the Young EUI Democracy Forum, and a former Policy Leader Fellow.