Monday, November 14, 2011

An Open Letter to the Young Africans Heading to the Climate Talks in Durban, Nov - Dec 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011
We ran a piece sometime back asking "Summits, Conferences, Meetings, Workshops, Seminars - So What?". This question is fitting of these Climate Talks. What if anything will be the use of another set of talks? We talk too much - when will we see actual action being taken? We often ask ourselves, why is it that we cannot replicate the sort of political will the world showered on the issue of "Terrorism" on such immediate and dire issues as Climate Change, HIV/AIDS, Hunger and Poverty. It goes to show where the priorities are. 

People are dying now. Livelihoods are being destroyed. The topography and indeed some countries are being wiped off the map because of climate change. People are dying every second because they can not get something to eat and for those who can, a large percent can not meet their needs (food, shelter, medical services etc). Yet these issues continue to receive inadequate political commitment. But for an issue such as Terrorism, we saw countries passing a UN resolution and enacting laws almost overnight,  and a multi-billion dollar, multi-state war being initiated all in the space of months. 

Why are we not seeing the same commitment on the issues that matter even more? Will these talks be any different? Will your participation, as a young climate activist (we assume that is why you are going) be any different and or will it make any difference? How have you really prepared for the talks? Have you engaged your government to secure a particular position? Have you connected with the rest of the continent to ensure our leaders do not abandon the unity of the African voice on this occasion? Do you even have a real passion and drive to address the issue of climate change or are you just excited at another opportunity to travel and lounge in the name of another conference?

Where are the talks now?

The commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. What will be next after that? This question is yet to receive a solid answer and this is the reason why we are skeptical as to whether we will see any real progress from this gathering. Copenhagen was a disappointment in the eyes of many, but there was a rejuvenation of the process at COP 16 in Mexico. Will we see meaningful progress in the agreements that were passed last December; (a) Green Climate Fund, (b) Technology Mechanism, (c) Adaptation Framework,  and (d) Additional Resources for the Most Vulnerable Developing Countries among others?

The United Nations says in the preparation to COP 17 that "Climate change is a complex problem, which, although environmental in nature, has consequences for all spheres of existence on our planet." "It is not surprising, then, that solutions come from all disciplines and fields of research and development." The world has had more than 10 years to come up with these solutions. Yes the problem is complex, but accorded the same diligence and commitment as "SOME ISSUES" that have received immediate resolution, we would likely be much further ahead in a renewed global climate change response.

What will you do as a Young African at the talks?

We have seen pictures of the venue, city and facilities to support COP 17. No matter how naive the comment sounds, we hope your participation is a serious one. In such processes, young people are encouraged to engage, but are also reminded to ensure they have a serious agenda and ensure they are consistent. 

"Young people are talking everything and anything, as long as it is interesting and current. Today it is HIV/AIDS, tomorrow climate change, 3 days later poverty"...this an unofficial quote from an acquaintance. We hope you are not one of these young people. We hope climate change falls under your field of expertise or is something you have engaged in consistently or is in support of your career path. We hope it is relevant to your work and that you will push the results and shortfalls of your agenda beyond COP 17. We hope its relevance is not based on your desire to travel.

What more can you do?

That said...we know that there are many who would like their voices heard at the talks. We know that their presence may have added further strength to the calls that civil society, youth and other groups will be making. But because not everyone can attend, you who will be there have an opportunity to ensure their voices are heard - to ensure they are engaged where they are. So on this, we encourage you to use your networks - your facebook portals, pages and groups - your twitter accounts - your connections to blogs such as this and other channels to share information on what is happening. It is a sure way to inform the continent as is to receive new ideas to complement your efforts.

We also encourage you to go rub-shoulders with your leaders. If you do not know who or what agency to engage whilst at home, COP 17 will be the place. They will be here there and you can be sure to deliver your message first hand. If you already know them, engage them before they leave your country so that you are able to follow-up. We know at this time there is probably little content-influence you may have, but you can very much have influence on the principles they should follow and on broader policy.

We encourage you to also engage your counterparts - fellow young people from other parts of the continent. There are many organizations and initiatives that will be represented. What we need is an even more diverse climate change movement on the continent that can pick on its differences for more strength. We are attacking the same problem and we are facing somewhat similar challenges as a result of climate change - hence our efforts need to find unity. We will receive more support and have greater influence that way.

And what do you think?

We would also love to hear from you. Leave us a comment. Leave a comment to the young people from all over Africa who will be attending COP 17. Challenge them here. Encourage them here. And call for action here.

More information?

If you have a particular issue you would like us to address for you, please email us through:

For more information on COP 17 and Previous Processes, please visit: UNFCCC - Durban Climate Change Conference.

Editorial Team.

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