My experience as a young negotiator for Zimbabwe. 

By Natalie Gwatirisa 

This is a guest feature by Natalie Gwatirisa, a young negotiator from the Climate Youth Negotiators Programme under the Youth Negotiators Academy.


Natalie Gwatirisa is a climate advocate with an academic background in linguistics, creatively integrating her linguistic skills in disseminating climate. She is an aspiring  climate negotiator trained with UNICEF, Young Negotiator Academy. She is the founder of All For Climate Action, a youth-led organization that seeks to promote the meaningful active participation of young people through advocating for inclusive climate empowerment, climate democracy and justice, and localised climate solutions. 

How I started getting involved in climate policy 

I started my journey as a climate activist in 2019. Since then, I have volunteered for  many environmental organisations, both locally and internationally. Part of this journey was joining EcoNetwork as a country representative leading different projects in Zimbabwe which was one of the stepping stones in my journey as a climate advocate. Later on, I founded All For Climate Action, which promotes inclusive climate empowerment, climate democracy and justice, and localised climate solutions for active participation of young people.

Many times we often find the decision-making process being adult-centric rather than integrating intergenerational leadership. The structures, the policy process and the climate politics has been dominated by the elderly, tokenism being practiced as young people get counted as attendees instead of participants; certainly, very few youth  actively contribute in the core central space of governance .Understanding the existing structures within the climate discourse has made me realise the need for urgent inclusion of young people at local, national and international platforms. I started getting involved  in climate policy at a national level and am interested in growing my career as a young negotiator.

My experience as a Young Negotiator so far 

My debut as a young negotiator in the UNFCCC Negotiations representing Zimbabwe was one of the most fascinating  experiences in my career following the track on Action for Climate Empowerment. For the first time, after an intensive negotiator training, I got to really understand what happens during COP and understand what determines the COP outcomes.

As a young negotiator with a linguistic academic background I  was fascinated by how language shapes our future as we use language as a tool of communication in the negotiation rooms. One of the most remarkable aspects of the language at the UNFCCC negotiations is the underlying intentions and values of each party involved as they carefully select words that suit their position. As a linguist, I found myself immersed in the art of language on such a global forum  and how it shapes the future of young people in the grassroots. Throughout the negotiations, I observed how words were wielded as instruments of diplomacy, advocacy, and conviction.  Each phrase crafted in the negotiation texts held the potential to drive meaningful policy changes and galvanize global efforts to combat climate change. 

My journey as a young negotiator and linguist at the UNFCCC negotiations has reinforced my belief in the resonant power of language to inspire, unite, and effect positive change. As I continue to navigate the ever-evolving linguistic landscape of climate diplomacy, I am dedicated to harnessing the potency of words to advance the imperative of climate action and foster a more inclusive and sustainable world for all.

My experience at COP28 

I would find myself lost in the negotiations as some texts were foreign. Learning from the hard way, you need to be quite  knowledgeable with the track that you are following, there is a strong need to understand the negotiation language and how the negotiation works. UNFCCC negotiations texts build up from previous texts and if you do not stay on track, you might get lost in the negotiation rooms as previous texts can be used as references. With the support of CYNP, I got an opportunity to be a keynote listener and give an intervention, as well as participate as a panellist on about 5 youth dialogues focusing on youth meaningful participation.


YNA is the umbrella initiative under which the Climate Youth Negotiators Programme is being delivered as its first major programme. The YNA is a global, intergenerational initiative aimed at redressing the systemic under-representation of young people in decision making by empowering and enabling young people to become climate change negotiators for their countries. See here for more information.

Categories COP28

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