Talanoa Dialogue at COP23

Tagalano Roa United Nations Climate change conference 2017 Bonn GermanyLast Year at COP22 in Marrakech, much of the media conversation was distracted by the US election results, and the instability of what would become of the Paris Agreement without the US’s commitment. Would it fall the way of the Kyoto Protocol? Would the economics work in its favor, as they did in the case of the Montreal Protocol? Countries weren’t sure, but they knew that inaction was too risky. They signed the Marrakech Action Protocol, indicating that they were all “Still In” regardless of what other countries decided. The decision was a powerful statement of unity for the environmental community worldwide, and a fierce posture against the new administration’s foreign policy stance. This effort was paired with a decision to include more non-state actors. Where states fail to act or where they are limited in their reach, their capacities can be expanded by including civil society in the implementation, tracking and policy making. This decision let to the organization of a Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.

The facilitative dialogue was called to address three questions:

              Where Are We?                            Where do we need to be?                             How do we get there?

These three questions were to be answered through a conversation between the stakeholders and the 196 nations that are part of the Paris Agreement.

COP23 Frank Bainimarama hosts an open dialogue with stakeholders from all constituency groups present. Talanoa session.

Stakeholders have long been fighting for a voice in the decision making of international climate change agreements, and this dialogue was especially important to youth.  Within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there are nine recognized constituency groups (a network of organizations that share a common purpose). They are: Business & Industry, Research & Investigation, Youth, Environmental, Local Government & Municipal Authorities, Indigenous Peoples, Farmers, Women & Gender, and Trade Unions. Each constituency has one or more policy position that they would like to see pushed through during the negotiations. Each of these constituency groups would now have a stronger voice through the Facilitative Dialogue.

 Fiji Prime Minister hosts the open dialogue
photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

During Week One, Fiji Prime Minister and COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa held an Open Dialogue between party actors and constituency groups. This was the first time for many constituency groups to have a seat at the table with equal footing and an equal voice in the conversation. Statements made by constituencies were given freely, not limited or timed as they typically are. The Fiji presidency compared the dialogue to a process called talanoa, a storytelling style used in the Pacific that emphasizes participation, inclusion and transparency, on a basis of trust and empathy.

Patricia Espinosa listens to constituency groups during talanoa session at COP23
photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

Parties engaged as well, responding to concerns of different constituency groups. The UK mentioned locking business leaders in a room until they figured out how to transition to a green economy, while Mexico joked that their businesses went into the room willingly. Uganda talked about a national climate change forum they held with non-party stakeholders to engage youth and community organizations in climate change adaptation.

Youth asked for greater focus on climate empowerment, with financial and institutional support for their programs so that they can take action in their home countries. We also asked for climate empowerment, capacity building, and climate change education to be included in countries’ national climate action plans, especially for mitigation.

COP23 YOUNGO intervention talanoa dialogue
photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

Moving into next year, there will be an online platform where we can contribute to the dialogue to try and answer some of these questions of where we’re at, where we’re going, and how to get there. The purpose of this dialogue is to create solutions, to drive innovation, and propose realistic means through which we limit global average temperature rise to 1.5⁰C.  Next year will be the big year to get these solutions together so that countries can start putting them in place worldwide before the 2023 Global Stocktake, when a count will be done of each country’s present and reduced emissions, carbon sinks, and mitigation efforts.

Youth around the world are already acting on the ground to create synergy for emissions reductions. Plant-for-the-Planet, Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, and CliMates are just a couple examples of organizations that bring thousands of youth together for reforestation, less invasive farming, and campaign building. For capacity-building, Youth Climate Lab, China Youth Climate Action Network and Care About Climate have created tools for youth worldwide to connect on online platforms to discuss the issues, solutions, and strategies for youth activists to be most effective in their work to address climate change locally, regionally or nationally. In terms of policy action, on an international level, we have working groups within YOUNGO that address many policy issues such as

Kava- a traditional Pacific drink

Adaptation, Women & Gender, Capacity-Building, Oceans, etc. These work to consolidate our policy positions into a specific request of policy-makers.

Over the next year, the UNFCCC will be continuing the Talanoa Dialogue at intersessionals in May and at COP24 in Poland. We look forward to drinking kava and having many more talanoa sessions! In the meantime, we’ll be continuing with our capacity building work year-round and working to make it as inclusive and transparent as possible. As Mr. Bainimarama said, “We are all in the same canoe“, we must work together to find & implement solutions.

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

Talanoa Mada ~ Youth Stand for Climate Action

For the past three days, over 1000 students, youth and young professionals converged in a high school in the outskirts of Bonn to define policy goals for COP, share strategies, and brainstorm ideas for how to combat climate change. The Thirteenth Conference of Youth, or COY13, was a place for youth to come together to prepare for the UN climate change conference (COP23) and another year of environmental activism around the world.

Photo rights to COY13 Germany COP23 Bonn Climate Sign Action
Participants raise the Climate Sign during the Opening Ceremony. Photo courtesy of COP13 PR team.

There were over 300 program contributions, consisting of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions. There was also an art space active throughout all three days, where the participants could make banners and signs for the Climate March, as well as other actions directed at building momentum and pushing negotiators towards stronger action.COY13

One session that I felt was really helpful was called “Combatting Isolationism in the Environmental Movement. The session recognized the number of environmentalists killed annually: a sobering 100 activists, or two a week, worldwide. It also addressed the issue of disconnected activists, who work outside the framework of a formal organization. For them, it can be extremely difficult, and even dangerous to do their work. Without resources, recognition, or support, they are most likely to burn out or be discouraged.

Photo courtesy of COY13

At the end of the session, we talked about how we all must work together. We are all working towards the same goal, of stronger commitments to greenhouse gas emission reduction, reforestation, reduction of plastic and food waste, and access to climate change education, mitigation resources, and adaptation strategies for people all around the world, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or wealth.

This communal theme ran through all of COY, and positive energy flowed through all the participants as we engaged in the conference theme of Talanoa Mada, which essentially means “Let’s talk” in Fijian. It connotes a participatory dialogue about how to combat issues that affect the entire community. As we move into the first week of COP23, the participatory dialogue will be a focus of the Fijian Presidency. Lagi Seru, a Fijian delegate and COY13 team member, describes Talanoa Mada:

Lagi Seru from Fiji. Photo courtesy of COY13

Talanoa is an everyday part of Fijian life. Creating a harmonizing environment for all, it brings together people to give thoughts and share opinions without the fear of retribution. People can freely voice their concerns, no finger pointing, and take the time to offer practical solutions at this space.”

Throughout COY13, special care was taken to support diversity, inclusion, well-being and equity, so that everyone felt that their voice were heard and valued. So many solutions were shared through case studies, brainstorming sessions, and workshops over the three day conference, and the participants left on Saturday encouraged, motivated and united for climate action, whether in their local communities, on their school/university campuses, and during COP23.

With youth from 114 countries worldwide, there was a great diversity within the venue. Everywhere you went, there was a burst of languages, laughter, and bright colors- from the clothing, flags, and signs born by the participants. Despite, or more accurately, because of the great diversity, there was a sort of synergy. Together, with so many different ideas, perspectives and experiences, we are able to overcome any roadblocks and obstacles we faced. Policy papers were written on behalf of the working groups, new partnerships were formed between overseas organizations, and those going into the COP23 negotiations were carefully prepared for strategic engagementduring the conference. COY13 was an incredible model of collaboration and participation. Whether it was through their food waste diversion programs, or morning yoga sessions, it gave us all the energy & focused determination that we needed to move into the tough negotiations of these next two weeks.

Vikaka & Danke to the entire COY13 organizing team!

Climate Sign
COY13 Stands in Solidarity for climate action using the Climate Sign, with Fiji PM & COP23 President Frank Bainamamara, Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Mayor Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, & UNFCCC Focal Point on Education & Youth Adriana Valenzuela.

 

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

Reflecting on OYE

If you Google my name you’d probably find some facebook pages or some websites with this intro – Amalen Sathananthar, raised in Kuantan and someone who has spent a lot of his youth with nature through various outdoor activities like camping and trail running. Through this bond I have discovered a need to help preserve what remains of the natural environment and help reverse the effects of Climate change in whatever way that I can. An avid volunteer at environmental NGO’s, I spend most of my time dedicated to my urban agriculture venture – Tanah U: Green Union (TU:GU) in Malaysia.

That’s me on the left!

Well, that’s me. I like to think of myself as an environmentalist. I give talks and workshops on matters related to climate change and activism and try to help out where I can. This is a little recollection of my past year being a part of the OYE program, from making lifelong friends to giving a talk in a conference in China.

If you have been involved in the global youth scene in environmentalism, you definitely have heard of YOUNGO before. I joined YOUNGO’s mailing list  in 2015 and have been fairly active on it since then, getting involved with discussions and organising actions etc.

About a year ago, I came across an email thread on capacity building. The need for a centralised capacity building platform had been widely discussed because there seems to be many with gaps in information that are really crucial and these things like what is YOUNGO or UNFCCC are quite basic and some things like ‘How does China’s new energy mix affect the regional energy diversification’ are a bit more complicated. It’s not like we don’t have people who can help give clarifications but the platform to share this information hadn’t really been properly established. Different initiatives and projects have been set up by a varying number of groups but nothing seemed to stick or propagate globally.

Then suddenly (well not really),  Natalie from Care About Climate popped up and presented this program to us – The Online Youth Exchange.  This program was an international youth exchange specifically focused on information transfer, an initiative by Care About Climate and China Youth Climate Action Network. I saw this and thought, “Hey this looks cool, let’s give it a go, plus I can possibly practice my different activism workshop sessions on here maybe.” So sign on I did.
First things first, I was not the only one from YOUNGO. Quite a few people signed on about 90 applied and 60 or so were accepted into the program to participate (of course, there were a ton of sleeping members).
We were contacted by the coordinators and paired up with a partner of similar interests and I was partnered with Cherry, an environmental economics major  from Renmin University from China. We we’re told to get in touch with our partners and told that every month there would be 2 webinars made and presented by the paired groups of participants. We we’re also advised to give comparisons during our sessions eg – bike sharing systems in America in comparison to China. A youth capacity building session run by the youth for the youth.


All this sounded fun and good but I was worried about timings as I am someone who never has a fixed schedule. To my relief my partner, Cherry was in the same time zone and being a student she was pretty flexible with timings and thank god the webinars were recorded and I could watch them on the trains in the morning on the way to work.

Friendship forms Beijing conference because of Online Youth Exchange
Cherry & Amalen get to meet!

So the program continued on for a duration of 1 year. Cherry and I became really good friends. She’s like 5 years younger but really eager to know more and do more for the environment. I was not going to COP 22 in Marrakech but Cherry was; and even though she’d been for her local Chinese Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN) trainings and she had a specific purpose going there, she was still quite nervous. We spent a good few days talking over Skype on what to expect and the different things at COP and how things work and what to look for. It was fun and useful to actually be putting to good use all the things I learnt in COP 21 . We became really close good friends and would contact each other regularly just to see how the other was doing.  

Cherry and other OYE Participants meet at COP 22 in Morocco

Fast forward to March 2017,  Cherry and I were going to give our first webinar on Climate Action: Governmental and Non-Governmental sides to the story. We had prepped for a couple of weeks, I was going to talk about Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA) and Cherry was going to talk about the whole Top-Down approach and how policies made by the government affect the climate action scene.
Our session was direct and straightforward and we had about 12 people in attendance. Cherry was quite nervous as she was not so used to giving presentations like this and I  felt uneasy and worried about the quality in my deliverance as this was my first webinar I was giving. Was I going to get the message out right?
Well, at the end of the session I played a role-playing game called the River Situation and this got everyone excited and really explained how  civil societies, general public and the government interact with one another in real life situations that involve the destruction or protection of the environment. Everyone was ecstatic , and even though things could’ve been better in terms of how the interactions between participants happened , it was amazingly fun and engaging.
You can check it out here.

And here’s the beauty of it: All these videos on such diverse topics can be found all online. That’s something I considered while giving my session, How do I make this interesting for those watching it later? Not everyone can be Sal Khan from Khan academy. But it still turned out well and like with all the videos, the most important thing is the information being talked about. I enjoyed watching them, expanding my knowledge base whilst I’m half asleep on the train on the way to appointments in the morning.

Check out the whole library of recordings here.

A month or so after webinar I got in touch with the coordinators again and they liked my session and asked me to come to China to do the game there. I was slightly perplexed and ecstatic. Turns out that OYE had been invited to come to the 9th International Youth Summit On Energy and Climate Change (IYSECC) and run a 3 hour workshop and Sarah and Echo (The Coordinators of OYE) wanted my game as a part of it. They had the funding for it and I was keen to attend this conference. It was a good chance for me to experience giving a session in an international setting. I was not going to pass it up! Plus this was a huge confidence boost for me personally, as I was asked to come and bring my energy and enthusiasm to a new bigger platform .

Meeting with Chen Nengcheng -master of Chinese Academy of Sciences, PhD in Kagoshima university Japan
Meeting with Li Dihua-vice dean and associate profesor of college of architecture and landscape architecture at Peking university

The sessions during the conference had some really big people involved and that was really impressive . The speakers were professionals from all sorts of varying environmentally related fields . I have recently taken an interest in urban planning and the session on this topic were my main focus. Albeit that it was mostly in mandarin, I could always find some other participant to help translate and the slides in English (some not all) were very helpful. The Question & Answer sessions were my favourite, as I could shoot all my questions
to these amazing speakers and their responses left me more inquisitive than before.  

The D-Day of our session,  and I was ecstatic. We had an audience of about 70-90 participants out of the total 292 people in attendance, as there were parallel workshops and talks going on at any given moment. We had Sarah , Pradeep, Jasmita  and Faysal all from OYE here to talk about their journeys and climate action as a whole and I took a 45 minute chunk to do our Role-Play game. Here’s how it goes:- a coal company is about to destroy a forest for mining purposes. One village upstream will be getting new jobs and still have their clean environment but then there is another village downstream whom will be directly affected by this development. There’s a civil society trying to help and of course, as we were in China, a government side too, to give their assessments and opinions on the matter. So I split everyone into these 5 groups , gave them the scenario and a time frame and they had to work together or against each other to find a solution.


It was fun and most of all engaging. At the end during the debrief everyone’s faces were filled within awe, sadness, happiness  because they finally got a taste (of some sorts)  of what happens in the real world when people campaign or fight for their rights. It’s not always fair. Now this might sound confusing to you as a reader but maybe check it out online- the River-Role playing situation or my webinar.

Presenting on International Cooperation & Youth Action

It’s now been slightly less than a month since then, I’m back home in Malaysia, the OYE program for the year has ended and the next batch is about to start soon. If this little article (more like a rant session ) has given you some insight to this program maybe you should check it out for yourself at http://onlineyouthexchange.org/  or To hear from more OYE participants about their experiences, watch this video! You can join the OYE program for the upcoming session too, the application opens on August 15th and runs till the end of the month.

Climate Sign from Great Wall of China with OYE and IYSECC participants

                                                            Join OYE!

Take it from me, it was one hell of an experience – meeting new people, gaining new experiences, knowledge and having a whole bunch of fun all the way!

~Amalen Sathananthar

OYE Participant 2016/17

IYSECC 9.0 Scholar