Global Human Rights Defence

Youth Participation at COP26: An Inside Insight - Part 1
Clara Winkler Photo by Ali Khademolhosseini

Katherine Willey
Environment & Human Rights Researcher Global Human Rights Defence

Last month, the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) officially came to an end. Political leaders made grand statements about the current state of the planet and made sweeping

commitments on topics from fossil fuels to finance. But what is it actually like to attend COP26? And what role do NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) play in shaping the

final outcome? To answer these questions, I sat down with Clara Winkler (23), a member of the executive committee of the Federation of Young European Greens, before and after the conference to get her insight and to ask about what she views as the most pressing issues on

the table at the negotiations. Below, you can read the first part, recorded 21st October, in which she outlines her hopes and expectations.

Could you please briefly introduce yourself, your name, your academic background, the organisation you’re working for and your role within the organisation?

My name is Clara and I’m from Germany. I studied a bachelor’s in International Relations

and Law and I’m now pursuing a master’s in Law and Politics of International Security at VU Amsterdam. Alongside this, I am an executive committee member of the Federation of Young European Greens. I am currently working on topics related to climate justice, environmental protection, and intersectional feminism.

What are the goals of your organisation?

The Federation of Young European Greens is an umbrella organisation for young green organisations all over the European continent. So from Georgia to Ireland, from Cyprus to Norway, we have at least 36 member organisations.

Our main goal is to advocate for green values all over Europe, we bring together climate

activists, but also activists for intersecting topics, such as LGBTQ + rights. We give them a platform to meet each other through events and working groups where they can discuss and coordinate. We want to connect the European green movement internally and also facilitate greater connection to political institutions, including through our office in Brussels.

When did you first become involved in climate activism and why?

My interest in politics started at school. After finishing high school, I did a political voluntary gap year and I worked at an NGO focusing on education for sustainable development. They organised workshops for a very diverse audience about the climate crisis and climate justice but also about fair trade and the impact of climate change on the Global South. Through this, I realised that the climate crisis is a really important topic that could affect my future tremendously. I wanted to get more involved and push politicians to do something about it.

So I joined my local group of young greens, became their spokesperson and then became more active within the federation.

Is this the organisation’s first time attending COP?

No, we’ve been an observer at the negotiations for 15 years now but this is my first time attending.

For many people, COP appears to be primarily an interstate event. How exactly does NGO participation work and what will you be doing when you get to Glasgow?

In the past, there were not a lot of platforms where politicians and NGOs could meet and talk about the climate crisis. In fact, COP was one of the only places where they could meet,

exchange views and strategise together while also pushing for more ambitious outcomes of the negotiations.

I think it’s very important for NGOs to be there. They have some formal roles in the negotiations themselves by being part of constituencies. The constituencies are the official, umbrella institutions within the COP which represent the NGOs [a full list of constituencies can be found h ere]. They get intervention rights so are able to talk during the negotiations. My organisation is part of YOUNGO, the constituency of children and young people. In the run up to the conference, we’ve been having monthly calls with activists from other youth organisations in the constituency to work together and prepare interventions. I think it’s

already important that we can give input on what is being said. We can also meet the country delegations and pressure them to advocate for issues.

NGOs can have a real impact on the outcome of the negotiations. In 2015 for example, in Paris, the original goal was going to be keeping global warming to 2 degrees. But scientists and civil society put a lot of pressure on delegations and eventually the final agreement included the 1.5 degrees goal.

What are your organisation’s goals during COP26?

First and foremost our goal is to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. The time is now or never to do this, it’s the last chance to turn this around. However, some countries are pushing against this or not even showing up to the conference at all.

We want to bring in the voices of movements, such as Fridays for Future, which could not be registered as official observers. We want to bring in the voices of as many people as possible and make sure that the perspective of the young people cannot be ignored.

We have also just launched a campaign on kicking fossil fuel companies out of the COP negotiations. The first successful step is that the UK presidency has said they won’t have any sponsorship role at COP26 – this is a direct outcome of pressure from civil society groups.

However, there are a lot of fossil fuel industry representatives that are coming in delegations of NGOs. But even more serious is when they come in country delegations because they have the power to block important decisions. It’s also problematic in terms of transparency and we want to try and expose this issue. We think that they should have some involvement but that they shouldn’t have a say in decision making.

More generally, we want to raise awareness about COP and try to broadcast what is happening. At the negotiations, we actually have the chance to see what governments do and call them out. We can share this with our member organisations and point out how they can lobby or criticise their governments because not all of them have access to the negotiation space.

As this is your first time going to COP, what are you most looking forward to personally?

I am most looking forward to experiencing the dynamics of the negotiations between

countries and learning which countries are blocking progress because I don’t know how public this is. I’m also interested in what the German government does, as that’s where I’m

from. Internationally, they are seen as very progressive but this is not the case, in my opinion.

I’m also very excited to connect with other environmental activists, especially from the most affected areas. For example, The Global Young Greens, which have a delegation made up mainly of people from the Global South. I think it is very important for us to join forces and to fight for climate justice together.

What are your hopes for the final agreement and outcomes of this conference?

I think one of the most important aspects is the presentation of NDCs [Nationally Determined Contributions – what each state is doing to counteract climate change]. Countries shouldn’t just present ambitious goals but they should show exactly how they will live up to their

commitments. I heard for example that the NDC from the European Union is only two pages long. They need to give concrete answers on how they will achieve the cap on emissions because so far their actions do not match their promises

I also hope that the financial commitments to countries in the Global South will be stepped up by the richer countries because so far, they are lagging behind.

I really hope that the role of companies gets investigated more and that fossil fuel industries don’t have too much of an impact on the outcome.

In the end, I hope that we can solve the climate crisis.

We’ve discussed how the conference will work in practice and which actors are involved. Do you think that this way of conducting negotiations is a good way to deal with climate change and its consequences? Would you like to see it changed?

I think it is a good basis to give countries a platform to coordinate their actions because we do need global cooperation. It’s also a good way to put pressure on certain countries because they don’t want to look bad in front of other states, their citizens and the media. This makes them more likely to present progressive NDCs.

However, especially under the circumstances of the pandemic, the negotiations are highly unjust. The UK requires people from certain countries to isolate in hotels for 14 days which means that delegations from certain countries will be much smaller than usual, even if the UK covers the financial costs. This means that the Global South will be underrepresented and unable to participate as effectively. This really creates an imbalance in favour of the Global

North and silences the voices of the people most affected by the crisis. I still think that

in-person negotiations are better than an online event as in these events it is often even easier to ignore certain voices and aspects, partly because of unequal access to the internet.

You mentioned that you’ve been working on issues of climate justice. Do you think that the current negotiation set-up is inclusive enough?

As of now, with the situation of the pandemic, I don’t think so.

I also think that civil society and the constituencies need a more powerful role in negotiations. For example, there’s a constituency which represents indigenous communities, and I don’t see why they only should have the role of constituency, they should be able to more actively participate in negotiations. Their voices shouldn’t be ignored just because they don’t fit into the traditional state system.

In general, the negotiations lack diversity, it’s a lot of older, white, men.

Do you think they’re inclusive enough of women’s concerns and experiences?

No, I don’t think so.

There are some countries like Saudi Arabia which are actively pushing against the role of women even being acknowledged. There are also issues within the WGC [Women and

Gender Constituency] and unequal power relations between the Global North and South. This is highly problematic and needs to be targeted.

Are you optimistic about the outcomes of the conference? Do you think it does have the potential to change our current course?

If everyone was committed to solving the crisis, the emissions would decrease but they are still increasing despite the 2015 Paris Agreement which placed strict limits on this. Most

countries, particularly those which have contributed the most to this crisis, are not even close to doing what they need to to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees.

I think the negotiations are useful for countries to coordinate but we really need strong pressure from civil society to hold the most polluting states and companies accountable. We must also stop these states and companies from blocking progressive agreements.

You mention accountability, how can governments and corporations be held accountable? How can readers of this article contribute to this effort? 

As a law student, I see great potential in using the law to hold them accountable. There have been a lot of lawsuits from climate activists against companies, but also against countries for their lack of climate action.

In terms of what readers can do, get informed. Just raising awareness about what certain

companies or countries are doing is important. As long as the public doesn’t know about their broken promises and lack of action, they won’t change. There needs to be far more awareness about how much fossil fuel companies have contributed to the current crisis. It’s also very important to listen to voices from the Global South, to those who are already experiencing the consequences of climate change.

Are you optimistic about the future of this planet in general?

I had to think hard about this question because climate anxiety is something a lot of young people also in our organisation are struggling with, including me. I think that it is worth it to fight for the health of this earth and of our and future generations. It’s worth it for every

action that tackles the root causes of the climate crisis, that raises awareness and pressures polluters to stop the destruction of the earth. Every fight for climate justice can make a difference.

But, if I want to be realistic, and look at the actions right now, I think there’s little room for optimism, which is really hard to process. Still, I haven’t lost faith yet that we can do this. I wouldn’t still be doing this if I didn’t have at least some hope.

Find out about Clara’s COP26 experience in Part 2.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.