ZAMI 2023 Accelerating Youth Participation in the Just Energy Transition


Compiled by Raphael Tinashe Matika -ZELA Youth Network

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), and the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) have jointly organized and created platforms for engagement and dialogue known as Youth Symposiums at the Zimbabwe Alternative Mining Indaba (ZAMI) for the past 12 years. These dialogue platforms have promoted youth urgency, enhanced the capacities of youth to actively engage duty-bearers, and empowered them to take up opportunities in different sectors of the economy, especially the mining sector. The 2023 chapter of the ZAMI Youth Symposium was conducted this past week under the theme “A just energy transition: unlocking youth potential and participation.”

Mining has the capacity to drive the development of third-world countries, but when conducted unsustainably, it creates winners and losers, with grassroots communities often adjacent to or within the vicinity of extractive industries being cast into the losing position owing to the fact that transnational corporations reap the benefits at the expense of local community welfare. Just energy transition means ensuring that the costs and benefits of a world powered by renewables are distributed fairly. Advocacy on the subject matter must create alternatives for people and regions trapped in fossil fuel dynamics through new economic opportunity mapping, education, skills training, and robust safety systems. The discourse on the Just Energy Transition was heavily premised on ensuring that the lives and communities that are tied to the high-emitting energy industries, mainly fossil fuel mining communities, are not left behind in the shift towards a low-emissions economy.

Youth Symposium 2023

Energy transition has been a topical issue in the world for decades now. Gradually, the need for energy transition has become increasingly urgent due to the negative impacts of climate change on the socioeconomic growth of developing countries. The context within which Zimbabwe currently exists does not boast signs for the attainment of an energy transition with regards to mining in Zimbabwe, largely owing to the persistent policy inconsistencies that setup interventions that lack the anchoring of clear legal frameworks resulting in continued existence of illicit financial flows (IFFs), unsafe mining activities, and the sprouting of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM).

The youth symposium was premised on these core objectives:

  1. To enhance the capacity of youths to actively participate in the energy transition process in Zimbabwe,
  2. To promote youth-led initiatives that support the transition towards renewable energy,
  3. To provide an inclusive platform for young people to engage in dialogue to share ideas, experiences, and innovative approaches for effectively addressing youth development challenges.

The prevailing theory of change is that if young people in Zimbabwe are able to actively participate in energy transition processes and sharpen their budget tracking skills, their capacity to hold public institutions to account will be enhanced, ultimately refining the quality of public institutions deliverables. Providing an inclusive platform for young people to engage in dialogue can only lead to increased collaboration, sharing, and cross-pollination of mitigation and innovation ideas. As a result of youth capacity building efforts and the creation of safe spaces for networking and collaboration, there has been a gradual adoption of renewable energy solutions by communities adjacent to extractives, community advocacy lobbying for reduced greenhouse gas emissions, improved environmental management outcomes, and an increase in economic opportunities for young people.

Participants shared experiences in a bid to map out challenges bedeviling mining communities. Common challenges identified include an increase in transient labor that affects service delivery, result in human-wildlife conflict, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, among other issues.

The Youth Initiative for Corporate Accountability campaign took center stage as the flagship Youth Initiative for enhancing a transition towards just energy transition. The ZELA Youth Network developed the Youth Initiative for Corporate Accountability campaign, affectionately dubbed the YICA campaign. The YICA campaign is designed to enhance youth participation while building collective power by calling for corporate accountability.

It was established last year by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association Youth Network. In support of the campaign, ZELA Youth Network ambassadors such as myself have developed numerous facets designed as strategies to enhance the efficacy of the Youth Initiative for Corporate Accountability campaign. Members such as Tafara Magidi have developed poems, titktok videos by Poda and Malik, and conducted a series of environmental child rights campaigns that featured an inter-secondary school environmental quiz in Hwange district, university campus radio dialogues, and tree planting exercises. They have also developed a blog in partnership with ORAP, World Wide Fund for Nature, members have also worked on the development of a responsible investments tracker in partnership with the Peoples Republic of China’s Responsible Critical Mineral Initiative, laboured towards the development of a localized policy model of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and lastly but certainly not least the ZELA Youth Network in bid to strengthen its call for stricter regulatory legislative frameworks has also networked regionally extensively and taken the YICA campaign regionally by setting up partnerships with Youths from Environment Africa in Zambia and Kuwuka JDA Youth Development and Environmental Advocacy in Mozambique.

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