Overline: RIFS Fellows
Headline: Everyone on Board for Climate Action? RIFS Fellow Examines UN Strategy for Civil Society Engagement

An active civil society is important in tackling climate change: it can push for new laws, hold the government accountable, and ensure that the interests of disadvantaged groups are addressed. It makes sense, then, that a growing number of civil society representatives are taking part in international negotiations such as the UN climate conferences. But how great is their impact? Deborah Lika hopes to answer this question during a year-long fellowship at RIFS.

RIFS Fellow Deborah Lika
RIFS Fellow Deborah Lika RIFS/Bianca Schröder

"Politicians talk a lot about how we need to have everyone on board for the transition to a low-carbon economy. I'm interested in how this goal is impacting international policy forums," explains Lika. Numerous representatives from business, science and civil society attend the annual UN climate conferences – but to what extent do their interests enter into government negotiations? The 25-year-old lawyer wants to find out, first at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in June, where government representatives from around the world will meet to prepare the next COP, and then at COP29 in Azerbaijan in November. 

Are young people being heard?

Lika is already familiar with the complex structures of the United Nations: in addition to studying law in Tirana, she worked for three years as a project coordinator at the United Nations Association of Albania. The participation of young people in UN processes and how different strategies are implemented to enhance their engagement for more effective climate action is also a focus of interest in her RIFS project.

In Bonn, she will observe the dialogues of the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) programme, which aims to increase public support for and engagement in climate action through education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation.

How can the UN encourage participation?

"The implementation of the ACE programme is voluntary and so it is interesting to see what priorities countries set. My impression is that many tend to focus on education and training and have so far neglected public participation and public access to information. I would like to know why this is the case. Are there not enough resources? Are the structures inadequate? While all of the countries that engage with ACE have established educational structures and can include climate change in their school and university curricula, for example, structures for public participation are still underdeveloped in many countries," says Lika. 

Deborah Lika's stay is funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation as part of the Fellowships for University Graduates from Central and Eastern Europe (MOE).