The Global Indigenous Youth Summit On Climate Change (GIYSCC) – Advocating For Indigenous Youth Rights and Recognition

by Millie May

The Importance of Indigenous Youth in the Climate Crisis

Indigenous youth voices are essential for climate justice and inclusive international climate policy. Indigenous groups make up 6% of our global population (500 million people) and 80% of our planet’s existing biodiversity involves land stewarded by Indigenous people [1]. Indigenous communities have fostered strong relationships with nature for thousands of years and have developed effective means to protect ecosystems and adapt to climate change [1]. Indigenous Knowledge underpins holistic and dynamic conceptions of stewardship, which have been increasingly identified as essential for addressing climate change adaptation [2]. Indigenous youth ‘are custodians of Indigenous Knowledge’ as they combine both non-Indigenous and Indigenous Knowledge to address climate change without excluding vulnerable communities and future generations [1]. However, indigenous youth face forced assimilation and discrimination which has disrupted intergenerational Indigenous Knowledge transmission, such as the Ainu of Japan having to conceal their indigenous Ainu identity, preventing youth from exchanging knowledge about climate adaptation rooted in Indigenous tradition [1,3]. In response to this discrimination towards Indigenous Knowledge, the Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Climate Change (GIYSCC) has been established to facilitate co-created dialogue for and by Indigenous Youths, so as to exchange climate change adaptation and mitigation approaches [1].  

Presenting GIYSCC

The GIYSCC was held virtually on the 9th of August over a 24-hour period to foster global dialogue for and led by indigenous youth from across the globe who contributed to the evolution of the UNFCCC [4]. This summit, which marked the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, not only enhanced ‘intergenerational synergies’ concerning the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) but also inspired indigenous youth leaders to empower sustainable development progress from ‘local to global levels’ [4]. The summit covered five topics: Climate Change Impact Perceptions / Knowledge by Indigenous Youth; Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation / Resilience Strategies; Climate Change Communication; Current Realities on Climate Change; Future Perspectives on Climate Change [4]. Across three 8-hour sessions spanning different time zones, these topics were effectively addressed through a mixture of keynote presentations, panels, documentaries, and art led by Indigenous Youth leaders with an overarching aim to ensure ‘a virtual dialogue by, for and among Indigenous youth with global inclusion’ [5].

National and International Climate change policies lack indigenous knowledge

In the run up to the GIYSCC, a Nature article was published by co-organisers of the summit who claimed that Indigenous youth “must be at the forefront of climate diplomacy” [1]. The co-organisers call for Indigenous Knowledge to be valued by local governments and for Indigenous youth to take on central roles within international climate policies, dialogues, and frameworks such as the UNFCCC, the IPCC and the convention on Biological Diversity [1]. However, the UN Environment Programme highlighted how despite the growing numbers of Indigenous communities filing court cases related to the climate crisis, these cases were rejected by courts as national legal systems fail to recognise indigenous land rights [6]. Furthermore, despite COP27 seeing the highest level of participation from indigenous people, indigenous peoples were only referred to twice in comparison to the eight times in the COP26 conference and so, effectively, indigenous knowledge was not adequately accounted for [6,7]. In addition, it was revealed in a report that only 19% of the $1.7 billion fund for indigenous communities pledged during COP26 had been distributed and only 9% of this directly went to Indigenous communities and organisations [6]. It is evident that there are inadequate national and international climate change policies, and the climate crisis can only be tackled if all stakeholders recognise the importance of Indigenous people in climate adaptation and restoring biodiversity [1].  

This is why the GIYSCC is so important as it provides a platform that advocates for the recognition of Indigenous Knowledge in the context of the climate crisis. This online summit facilitated the co-creation of climate crisis dialogues by Indigenous youths where powerful climate change adaptation and mitigation ideas were exchanged [1]. Ultimately these dialogues identified the knowledge gaps left in the wake of COP negotiations that urgently need to be filled if climate justice and effective adaptation and mitigation actions are to be achieved.   


[1]Sogbanmu,O,T et al (2023) ‘Indigenous youth must be at the forefront of climate diplomacy.’ Nature, 4th of August 2023, URL:

[2]Kuhnlein, H. V. & Chotiboriboon, S. (2022) Front. Sustain. Food Syst.6, 808670. [Accessed 17th August 2023].

[3]Ishita, A (2023) ’Ainu work to build a sense of community in urban Japan, 17th of Feb, 2023. NHK World-Japan, ’URL [Accessed 17th August 2023]. 

[4]Unitar (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) (2023). ‘Global Indigenous Youth Summit on Climate Change.’ Unitar, URL: [Accessed 17th August 2023].

[5]GIYSCC (2023) ‘Programme: Global Indigenous Youth Summit On Climate Change’, 9th August 2023. GIYSCC, URL: [Accessed 17th August 2023]. 

[6]Selibas,D (2022) ‘Words that did’nt make the cut: What happened to Indigenous rights at Cop27.’ Mongabay, 25thNovember 2022, URL: [Accessed 17th August 2023].  

[7]UNFCCC (2022) ‘Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement’ 20th November 2022, UNFCCC, URL:

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