It has ended up being a much busier week than usual for me at a COP meeting. Exhaustion, along with frequent internet disruptions at the hotel, has led to a lapse in my blogging. I just returned from the last activities of the Convention Center for week 1 (for me anyway), so will now turn my attention to catching up on sharing some of the stories from the Conference.
|The Qatar National Conventional Center|
|One of the QNCC's long hallways|
In an earlier post, I referred to the first COP Gender Day -- an official declaration by the UNFCCC Secretariat. The term “gender equity” first gained attention at COP17 in Durban last year, and the first-ever gender-picnic was held. At COP 7 in Marrakesh, a decision (36/CP.7) was formalized to “improve the participation of women in the representation of Parties in bodies established under the Convention of the Kyoto Protocol.” Progress has been made, but there has been growing research verifying that women are disproportionately disadvantaged, especially in developing countries (or the Global South) when it comes to the negative impacts of climate change. Additionally, one outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was the “recognition of women’s leadership and their vital role in achieving sustainable development.” Given that the past three COP presidents have been females, as is the UNFCCC Executive Secretary, it is not surprising that the issue of gender equity has been brought to the forefront of international climate dialog. What is surprising to many is that this has become such a predominant issue at a COP meeting held in the Middle East.
|The COP18 President and some members of the delegation from Qatar|
Gender Day at COP18 was filled with panels, the launch of a book about women adapting to climate change (mentioned in one of my previous posts), receptions, and celebrations. I am not one to typically engage in events focused solely on women’s issues, but out of admiration for political challenges that had been faced by the past 3 COP presidents (all female), and especially for Executive Secretariat Christiana Figueres (who continues to amaze me with her brilliance, diplomacy, and grace under pressure), I decided to attend the book launch. This event also featured the COP18 and 19 presidents, the Executive Secretariat, and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland (1990-1997). Ms. Robinson (“Mama Mary” as she was affectionately referred to during the session) has worked endlessly on behalf of human rights through the United Nations as High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 – 2002) and now, as founder and board chair of the Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice.
|Cecelia from Kenya whose work in climate adaptation was noted by Mary Robinson|
|The artist's statement for the large spider sculpture in the QNCC|
All panelists seemed to agree that we need to change the narrative “to put more humanity in our hearts so that we can change the situation”, to put a human face on climate change – both its impacts and opportunities. In other words, policy makers need to understand the urgency as indicated by the science, but they also need to be aware of the climate-related predicaments people are faced with daily around the globe. I recently read an op-ed that said we should drag all the Parties (negotiators) out for a walk in nature (I wish I could find this piece again). There were several references to the disconnect between Party delegates sitting in air-conditioned convention centers making policy decisions and the people whose lives and livelihoods these policies impact. Most importantly, it was stressed that we we can’t just focus on the doom and gloom stories; Secretariat Figueres cautioned that these types of stories are not inspiring and won’t “take people to the next step of innovative solutions.”
This was not a day of angry feminism, but rather one that led to a strong a call for on-the-ground support for real people — men and women— and a call to maximize the potential of all in adapting to and helping to solve the challenge of climate change. One slogan of the conference is “7 Billion People. One Challenge.” How appropriate.
On November 29th, the secretariat received a proposal from the European Union which is now titled Draft decision [-/CP.18] “Promoting gender equality and improving participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol.” That title reflects a lot of COP jargon that essentially translates to a proposal to advance the goals of gender balance and gender-sensitive (or gender-smart) climate policy. The Subsidiary Body for Implementation or SBI will have to finalize language on this tonight (December 1st) and vote to move this to be formally adopted by the Conference of the Parties (more jargon, I know). But this might very well be one of the first agreements coming out of COP18.
|Sunset in Doha|
 The Future We Want, outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, adopted on 12 June 2012 (United Nationals General Assembly resolution A/RES/66/288. paragraph 237). See also the focus on women in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/.