Incorporating All Voices and Ensuring Inclusive Engagement

About This Opportunity

Well-thought-through and meaningful engagement allows governments to leverage the existing capacities and commitments of a diverse set of stakeholders to enhance ambition and accelerate implementation of NDCs. The GST acknowledges “the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.” Broad and meaningful engagement facilitates exchanges to determine how to embed climate policy within Whole-of-Society stakeholders’ existing plans and priorities, allowing governments to align climate action with national sustainable development plans to deliver strong social and economic benefits. Furthermore, engaging disproportionally affected disenfranchised and marginalized people and populations groups can help ensures that NDC processes and outcomes are more effective, just, fair and protect and fulfil respectful of human rights.

Despite renewed attention in recent years, the call for civil engagement in climate action is not new. Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) denotes work under Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992) and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement and their six elements: Climate Change Education, Training, Public Awareness, and Public Access to Information, Public Participation, and International Cooperation.

The Strategic Framework for Citizen Engagement identifies a spectrum of citizen engagement which includes informing, consulting, collaborating, and empowering. While informing is an important enabling condition, meaningful citizen engagement requires a two-way interaction to close the feedback loop and meet citizens’ expectations for improved development outcomes based on their inputs.

Given each country’s distinct social and institutional structures, Whole-of-Society approaches will be unique. In all cases, active participation of stakeholders across government and society within climate action provides a unique opportunity to deliver transformative social and economic change in alignment with development priorities.

The following strategies could help to implement this Opportunity:

Defining the public-sector bodies that will lead NDC-related engagements and establishing formal coordination mechanisms and responsibilities:

Meaningful engagement can be delivered effectively when overseen and managed by personnel who are assigned to the specific roles and responsibilities for planning, implementing and, monitoring engagement, and ensuring outcomes are acted upon. This can be led via partnerships or from the NDC lead entity but is important to reflect in institutional arrangements. Designating focal points for sectoral line ministries, specialized agencies, disadvantaged people and groups, gender stakeholders and other key non-Party stakeholders allows engagement and communications to be regular and sustained, reinforcing trust between all involved. Furthermore, coordination and collaboration between an NDC coordinating agency and other ministries and focal points, and other entities, can support identifying intersections across existing mandates and climate change commitments.

Identifying and understanding all stakeholder needs in a participatory process, including people in vulnerable situations, children and youth, women and girls, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities:

Stakeholder mapping offers an opportunity to identify how each group may be affected, be interested in, contribute to, or influence policy, both positively and negatively. It can help identify both needs and understand who the actors are. This is important in understanding who, how, and when to engage, the knowledge and information they bring, such as the experience of climate impacts and innovative solutions, and how they are impacted by climate action, safety, availability , accessibility of solutions, and the need to ensure a Just Transition, for instance. Completing this at the outset can help ensure that appropriate engagement is planned and embedded throughout the NDC process.

Formalizing stakeholder engagement, setting up legally mandated structures and processes, or establishing specific mechanisms to ensure equitable and inclusive inputs:

Laws and resolutions can be used to set out a requirement for meaningful, high-quality engagement of disadvantaged people and groups. This fulfils their human right to participate in decision-making processes and protects their right to shape policies that will directly affect them. Further, it can help with identifying and avoiding negative impacts of climate and environmental measures for disadvantaged people and groups. For example, decisions that may affect Indigenous Peoples’ rights must not be taken without their free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). Other formalized approaches to stakeholder engagement including deliberative events, such as citizen assemblies, can demonstrate the active role citizens can play in decision-making and developing a consensus-based approach to dealing with difficult policy issues, such as climate change.

Planning for stakeholder engagement processes in every stage of NDC policy cycles:

The inclusion of stakeholders at any point of the cycle can serve as an entry point for involvement in other stages and supports consistent engagement and accountability, with multiple actors following up on whether action plans are achieving targets and where there is room for improvement. Ensure that planning for engagement considers the needs and opportunities at every stage and is not a ‘one-off’ activity.

Building internal technical capacity to mainstream gender equality and social inclusion in climate policy:

Having a gender equality and social inclusion action plan may help structure efforts to mainstream inclusive practices throughout government. There is a wide range of measures to build internal capacity, which includes: training for officials across government ministries, agencies and, at a sub-national level; embedding gender equality and social inclusion units or focal points throughout government; coordination mechanisms among assigned focal points; implementing gender-responsive budgeting in all agencies; promoting the leadership and participation of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples and local communities in government plans and climate change forums; conducting research on the impacts of climate change on marginalized communities; and conducting vulnerability assessments.

Creating specific platforms or forums for engagement, such as for youth or marginalized groups, to facilitate an inclusive process:

Young people or other groups can co-shape actions, strategies, decisions, and outcomes when there is a structure and process defined that enables this. These might include, for example, national youth climate councils, dialogues, consultations, or the inclusion of representatives in national climate commissions or other bodies. Annual Local and Regional Conferences of Youth (known as LCOYs and RCOYs) hosted by the official Children and Youth Constituency to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (YOUNGO) can also serve as useful preparatory events in the run-up to the Global Conference of Youth (COY) and the annual COPs. See for example UNDP’s checklist for a youth-inclusive NDC process.

Considering the use of informal approaches to incorporate all voices:

Interactive online platforms, social media and, digital tools can make climate change knowledge accessible to all and provide an effective way of engaging large numbers in the discourse surrounding climate change. The use of media and virtual tools in NDC processes could help to build engagement, seek views, gather knowledge and data, and contribute to meaningful dialogue and awareness, reaching greater numbers than more conventional engagement approaches. At the same time, many marginalized and affected communities lack access to online communication channels, such as email or messaging apps, as well as direct contact with government officials. Considering informal outreach approaches that are inclusive of all needs and more accessible to all, such as radio for example, is important to ensure that engagement is inclusive.

Integrating the ‘Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)’ elements into NDCs:

Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) denotes work under Article 6 of the UNFCCC and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement and their six elements: Climate Change Education, Training, Public Awareness, Public Access to Information, Public Participation, and International Cooperation on these issues. The NDC revision process is a key opportunity for countries to integrate ACE. The first step to integrating ACE into an NDC in a holistic way is to commit – if this is not already the case – to developing a national ACE strategy and to integrating ACE into climate change and sectoral policy. The ACE strategy should then be developed and implemented through a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder participatory process. For a detailed systematic guide on how to develop an ACE national strategy and action plan, see the “ACE: guidelines for accelerating solutions through education, training and public awareness” (UNESCO and UNFCCC Secretariat).

Country Examples

India has, over the last thirty years, developed 400,000 local mutual aid groups under the Neighborhood Parliament banner. Approximately half of those groups are now using Sociocracy, a form of consent-based governance (rather than majority voting), which has spread around the world as a global standard for governance in which every participant has a real voice. In sociocratic Neighborhood Parliaments, every household in a neighborhood of 20-30 homes contributes a representative. Every representative has a ministerial role in their Neighborhood Parliament, and together they work on the projects they decide are most important for their neighborhood, using the organizing focus of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. These Neighborhood Parliaments then connect to one another, forming village, district, and state parliaments made up of representatives elected upward. Where Neighborhood Parliaments are widespread, local politics transform, with a majority of women elected to office and a reduction of corruption. These parliaments are making meaningful local impact on climate change, with environmental campaigns encouraging low carbon behavior change and devising innovative means of adapting to changing climates. Some local governments in the south of India now have specific programs to support the creation of neighborhood parliaments in every neighborhood, given the significant positive impact they have on poverty reduction, mental and physical wellbeing, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

(Source: “Neighborhood Parliaments in India”, Grassroots Economic Organizing)

Ecuador incorporated gender-sensitive tools throughout the entire NDC process, building capacity around gender considerations, enhancing climate-related policies, adopting a Whole-of-Government approach, and pledging to involve women’s organizations at every step. The Ministry of Environment, Water, and Ecological Transition (MAATE) of Ecuador, through the establishment of the Gender and Climate Change Commission, has prioritized gender mainstreaming as a key strategy to ensure that national climate action simultaneously advances gender equality. MAATE, together with the National Council for Women, also leads the Technical Committee on Gender and Climate Change, a group that coordinates 17 stakeholders representing public, private, academic and, not-for-profit entities. A series of eight intersectoral workshops were also carried out to capacitate stakeholders on the relationship between gender and climate change. Further support involved participating in technical discussions to advise on opportunities to integrate gender in climate projects and monitoring gender integration across ministerial programming, as well as developing tools, informational booklets, and educational materials to create gender awareness among MAATE personnel.

(Source: “Mainstreaming Gender and Youth in Latin America: Experiences From Panama and Ecuador” the NDC Partnership)

Panama – youth engagement as a key element of national climate action. The Ministry of Environment’s Climate Change Directorate developed the Academy on Climate Change for Young Leaders as a space to strengthen the capacities of young leaders in the country on issues related to climate change. The Academy empowers participants to develop robust, real-world project ideas and concepts, ranging from the design of adaptation measures for national watersheds to initiatives focused on developing Panama’s blue economy. 

The first Academy in 2019, featuring 30 participants selected from over 400 applications, highlighted the capacity and enthusiasm of young people towards shaping their own sustainable future. The NDC Partnership proudly hosted two of the Academy graduates during the first Youth Engagement Forum in 2021

Furthermore, the Government has prioritized internships, training, volunteer opportunities, and formal employment as methods to sustainably integrate young people into public service. This commitment to professional youth development in the climate sector resulted in Panama’s COP26 delegation being the youngest with an average age of 29.  

Kenya is leading the Way in youth Climate Action. Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry and its Climate Change Directorate (CCD) with the support of GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) involved approx. 300 children and youth in the development of Kenya’s third National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP III) (2023-2027) – pioneering youth contributions to Kenya’s NDCs.

Through consultative workshops, the Ministry built up their capacities and systematically engaged them in the climate policy development process. Further, it organized advocacy and awareness campaigns to encourage their active participation. This included, inter alia, UNICEF Kenya’s digital Yunitok survey, podcasts social media activities.

As a result, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry included for the first time a specific focus on children and youth in the final NCCAP III. Further, youth climate actions were integrated into sectoral climate change priorities of the NCCAP III – with an allocated budget. This fostered the collaboration between the public sector and youth networks, which is crucial in achieving Kenya’s NDC targets.

Source: “Youth Stocktake of UNFCCC Processes”, Youngo

Further Resources

The following guidance and tools can provide further support for incorporating all voices into NDC processes.

Whole-of-Society Approaches to Inclusive Stakeholder Engagement (NDC Partnership, 2024)
This best practice brief provides guidance and examples on how to apply a Whole-of Society approach to effectively engage stakeholders in the enhancement, planning and implementation of NDCs.

Integrating Action for Climate Empowerment into Nationally Determined Contributions A short guide for countries (UNESCO, 2020)
This guide aims to provide countries with advice on how to enhance ambition and address the six elements of ‘Action for Climate Empowerment’ (ACE) – Education, Training, Public Awareness, Public Access to Information, Public Participation, and International Cooperation – in their respective NDCs. Five simple questions and answers provide suggestions for elements that can be integrated into the NDCs in order to make ACE an integral part of countries’ climate responses. The guide also shows why ACE is key to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and its greenhouse gas emission targets.

Action for Climate Empowerment: Guidelines for Accelerating Solutions Through Education, Training and Public Awareness (2016)
These guidelines are intended to facilitate the work of National Focal Points (NFPs) to implement ACE activities in their countries. This publication can also be useful to other policy-makers and members of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) seeking the means to address climate change.

Integrating Human Rights in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) (Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and GIZ, 2022)
This toolkit provides a practical guide to support governmental- and policymakers, development cooperation actors, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders in integrating human rights in their NDCs. The Toolkit’s sections contain recommendations, checklists of key human rights considerations, relevant international instruments, and illustrative examples of State practices. The guiding questions are meant to be applied and used as practical tools to inform the development and updating of NDCs.

Youth Stocktake of UNFCCC Processes (YOUNGO, 2023)
The Youth Stocktake of UNFCCC Processes assesses youth inclusion by Parties to the UNFCCC and details the development of key YOUNGO initiatives, focusing in particular on the UN Climate Change Conferences of Youth (COYs) that take place at local, regional, and global levels (LCOYs, RCOYS, and GCOYs).

Child-Sensitive Climate Policies for Every Child – How NDCs can be more Inclusive and Rights-Based for Children and Young People and Ensure Child-Critical Social Services are Climate and Disaster Resilient (UNICEF, 2022)
This study highlights that governments are making progress to incorporate more child-sensitive commitments in their NDCs, including in countries where children are exposed to high levels of climate risk. It also provides examples and opportunities for greater attention including through sector-based programming, youth-driven campaigns, UNICEF partnerships, and stories of how young people are raising climate awareness and participating in advocacy platforms.

The Nine Basic Requirements for Meaningful and Ethical Child Participation (Save the Children, 2021)
The Nine Basic Requirements for Meaningful and Ethical Child Participation is a key tool for ensuring quality child participation in any initiative with children. They are built on a foundation of what children have shared with adults over many years and we are truly thrilled to share this latest version with you. Presented in an easy-to-read colorful format, the resource includes checklists and simple tools for easy access and use.

On Equal Terms: A Checklist for Decision Makers and Practitioners on a Youth-Inclusive NDC Process (UNDP, 2023)
This new checklist developed by UNDP, provides officials, policymakers, and other climate practitioners with a comprehensive guide for establishing a youth-inclusive process for NDCs. This checklist is the result of UNDP’s extensive engagement with climate stakeholders, youth organizations, movements, and networks across various countries. Informed by a survey involving 335 youth from 78 countries, aged 15 to 35, the checklist incorporates their perspectives and experiences in participating in NDC formulation, implementation, and monitoring. Adaptable to local contexts, it serves as a guidance tool across six critical stages of the NDC process, from the initial political decision to meaningfully engage youth to NDC implementation.

Advancing Youth Civic Engagement and Human Rights (UN-HABITAT, 2013)
This report demonstrates that youth citizenship and engagement in governance is about more than political engagement. It is as much about dealing with limited access to economic resources and socio-political assets. This begins with engaging youth as equal partners, recognizing their rights to participate in decision-making processes and to productively use their knowledge, perspectives, and experience.

Engaged and Heard! Guidelines on Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement (UNICEF, 2020)
The Guidelines are intended to support the design of meaningful and equitable Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement. They provide information on the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how-to’ of adolescent participation and civic engagement.

The Availability of Climate Finance for Youth (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2023)
This report maps out the availability of climate finance for youth-led actions and in response to the findings, calls for efficient reporting of climate financing along with the standardization of procedures for accessing funds, fast-tracking private sector engagement, and diversifying funding instruments with a focus on youth.

Gender Responsive Indicators: Gender and NDC Planning Implementation (UNDP, 2020)
This document focuses on developing gender-responsive indicators for the implementation and tracking progress of NDCs. It outlines the importance of both quantitative and qualitative indicators in measuring gender-related changes and ensuring equal participation and benefits. The guidance includes steps for developing these indicators and highlights challenges such as collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data and ensuring activities are gender-sensitive.

Gender Analysis and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): Short Guidance for Government Stakeholders (UNDP, 2019)
This document offers guidance for integrating gender considerations into NDC processes, emphasizing the importance of gender analysis in achieving inclusive and effective climate action. It outlines the steps for conducting sectoral gender analyses and identifying gender-specific impacts, needs and opportunities within climate change initiatives. The guidance covers policy alignment, institutional coordination, capacity building, sex-disaggregated data, and dedicated financial resources to ensure gender-responsive climate actions.

Building Gender-Responsive NDCs (NDC Partnership, 2020)
This Insight Brief by the NDC Partnership emphasizes the importance of integrating gender equality into the planning and implementation of NDCs under the Paris Agreement. It shares insights on effective practices, barriers, and the need for gender mainstreaming in climate action, aiming to enhance gender responsiveness in future NDC updates and implementations.

Gender Integration in NDCs: A Commonwealth Best Practice Guide (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2022)
This best practice guide supports Commonwealth member countries to integrate gender into NDCs – the documents at the apex of national frameworks for climate mitigation and adaptation actions, through which gender equality outcomes can be progressed.

Gender Integration for Climate Action: A Review of Commonwealth Member Country Nationally Determined Contributions (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2022)
This report presents a macro-level overview of the extent of gender integration in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), and new or revised NDCs by Commonwealth member countries under the 2021 revision cycle.

Best Practice Brief: Coordination Mechanisms [FORTHCOMING]
This brief presents three areas of coordination that often play crucial roles in NDC processes, drawing on best practices from across the NDC Partnership: 1) inter-ministerial coordination, 2) implementing and development partner coordination, and 3) Whole-of-Society coordination. The guidance presented is non-prescriptive and should be tailored to individual countries’ unique experiences, circumstances, and capacities.

NOAA Guidance and Best Practices for Engaging and Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge in Decision-Making (NOAA, 2023)
This guidance focuses on knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples. NOAA recognizes the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge for understanding the environment, adapting to environmental change, and mitigating negative environmental impacts. This guidance document aims to provide best practices designed to ensure that the sharing and application of IK is responsible, effective, and mutually beneficial.

How This Links to Other Routes

Appropriate and inclusive engagement to ensure all voices are heard and no one is left behind are important to all stages of the NDC process. People who are underrepresented and often not heard are also recognized as important agents of change in combatting climate change.  Some specific linkages to other Routes are particularly relevant. Navigate to these to read more:

Route: Delivers a Just and Equitable Transition

A Just Transition process ensures all voices are heard and potential impacts are adequately assessed, with a view to minimizing risks and leveraging opportunities to advance social and climate justice.

Route: Aligned to Paris Agreement Global Goal on Adaptation

Participatory processes are central to adaptation planning, and considering all non-Party stakeholders is important for understanding vulnerabilities across society.

Route: Aligned to the Paris Agreement Temperature Goal

The highest ambition will be achieved more effectively and equitably where all people have a voice, and are recognized.

Support Opportunities

Support is available to countries to apply the learning from the navigator and develop ambitious NDCs 3.0.

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Contribute new guidance, tools and strategies to be reflected in the NDC 3.0.