Meet Shakil Karim: YMCA Head Delegate for COP28

Date: 21 September 2023

Each year, YMCA representatives participate in the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP. This year, COP28 takes place from 30 November to 12 December 2023 at Expo City in Dubai, and delegates will be announced soon. Their mission remains clear: Representing the voices of young people advocating for climate change action and environmental sustainability.

Leading the way is Shakil Karim, the YMCA Head Delegate for COP28. An experienced COP delegate from the USA, Shakil will work closely with World YMCA leaders throughout the event and beyond. 

Get to know Shakil Karim and his aspirations of maximising the impact and experience of the YMCA delegates in the United Arab Emirates.

His YMCA and COP journey

Shakil first came to the YMCA in 2014 in San Francisco, California, working in youth and other programmes in the Bay Area. In 2020, he was part of the first Youth-Led Solutions team, and he saw an opportunity for the YMCA to evolve and expand its mission towards climate advocacy.

“My passion for this work has taken me on an eventful journey”, he said, “from COP26 to our World Council in Aarhus, Denmark, to last year’s COP27. In these events, I observed the network of brilliance around us and thought that someone must bridge the gaps.”

Key responsibilities for COP 28

Shakil has several crucial responsibilities at this year’s event. Among them:

  • Strategic priorities: Aligning the Conference priorities with the work done under the Sustainable Planet Pillar of YMCA Vision 2030.
  • Building partnerships: Forming alliances with stakeholders, representing YMCA’s brand, and advocating for young people with policymakers and business leaders.

Delegation management: Ensuring a positive and meaningful experience for all YMCA delegates throughout COP.

Planet stewardship
At the core of Shakil’s commitment is pursuing a better world, particularly for those affected by systemic oppression.

"Guiding our planet toward sustainability means addressing the root causes of our exploitative systems," he said. “Every action we take ripples through the global ecosystem. I believe societies can challenge themselves to become more just, equitable, and mindful”.
Shakil emphasises that change begins with self-reflection, focusing on solving our disparities, seeking solutions, and rethinking problem-solving approaches. "This work matters to me because it helps us understand how we got here and envision where we want to go."

Aspirations for COP28:

Shakil acknowledges the challenges and rewards of COP participation and is focused on two main points this year:

  • Phasing out fossil fuels: Advocating for developed countries to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels while promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and access.
  • Global finance: Scaling up public finance from Global North countries in line with the needs of the Global South.

Specifically for the YMCA, he said, “I hope that we maximise our relationship building to work with potential partners and that our delegation is motivated to continue this work and apply ideas and solutions back in their regional associations”.