This week, world leaders are meeting in Egypt for COP27, the global climate summit. Joining them will be Ugandan youth activists who have decided to make their voices heard. Hilda Flavia Nakabuye and Patience Nabukalu, two young, outspoken women from Friday’s for Future, a global, youth-led climate action group, have travelled to Egypt with an important message: listen to young people from Uganda and across Africa.
In recent years, Uganda has faced serious extreme weather events, which have taken a serious toll on lives and livelihoods. The region has already warmed by 1.3 degrees Celsius, and both droughts and heavy rainfall are expected to become more intense as a result of climate change. Flooding and landslides are common occurrences in Uganda and have had devastating impacts, such as a landslide in September 2022 that killed at least fifteen people.
According to the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF), about 570 million children globally are currently highly exposed to flooding, and this is likely to worsen because of climate change.
It was the prospect of more extreme climate impacts that led young people in Uganda to form a chapter of Fridays for Future in their country. One of them was a 13-year-old sixth grader from Uganda’s capital Kampala, who has experienced floods first-hand: “I am worried about floods, I have seen a few near my home … it killed some people,” she said. She joined Fridays for Future because she believes “something can be done.”
Young people from across Uganda have shared their fears about the climate crisis and their anger about broken promises of governments with Fridays for Future Uganda. They are calling on world leaders to “turn COP27 into a COP of bold actions and the beginning of honoring climate pledges and building quality commitment to global climate pacts.”
Such activism in Uganda comes at considerable risk. In October, nine university students were arrested in Kampala for protesting the construction of a new oil pipeline in Uganda and neighboring Tanzania. They were held for six days and charged with “common nuisance.”
But this has not deterred the young activists attending the climate summit, who are calling upon governments at COP27 urgently to curb emissions globally, stop new fossil fuel projects, and assist affected countries in the global South.
When heads of state meet in Sharm El-Sheikh, they should consider what climate change means for the future of young people in Uganda – and they should listen to what they have to say.
Juliane Kippenberg is an associate director in the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. She began working at Human Rights Watch in 1999. She has carried out human rights research and advocacy on a wide range of issues, including sexual violence in armed conflict, the right to education, environmental health, child labor, and the responsibility of companies regarding their global supply chains.
She has undertaken extensive research and advocacy on sexual violence in the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since 2011, Kippenberg has conducted investigations on child labor, children’s environmental health, and other abuses in mining and mineral supply chains, including in Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Zambia, and the Philippines, and advocated for more robust rights protections in mining and in global supply chains. From 1999 to 2005,
Kippenberg led a project for the protection and capacity building of nongovernmental organizations in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the DRC. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, she worked as campaigner at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International. She holds a master's degree in understanding and securing human rights from the University of London, and graduate degrees in African history and French from the University of Hamburg, Germany.