This evening of Dec 8, 2009, in the Bella Center, CAN, the Climate Action Network, held its first public session. CAN is a remarkable organisation, as it attempts to network NGOs worldwide that are concerned with climate change and to build up capacity for these NGOs to network amongst themselves but also with their governments and delegations at the COP meetings. They make sure that these NGOs can send representatives at COP meetings and that over the years these representatives can build up experience and knowledge, which they can then transfer to others. This meeting was remarkable, as it focussed on personal experiences and expectations of people. This blog reflects some of my impressions during the session.
Obviously, there is a great need in the developing countries for knowledge about climate change and for capacity building to address these issues. The many narratives that were presented highlighted this very strongly. I was very much struck by Ms. Marstella Jack from the Federates States of Micronesia who pleaded for support to sensitize the population. This people are fighting for the very place where they live. The same kind of narratives and pleas came from some other people who told us their stories and backgrounds. Africa has contributed least to climate warming, but it will be the continent to suffer most from climate changes. Through its networking and programmes, CAN offers the possibility for Africans to network and to advocate their own cause.
There was a remarkable intervention of Saleem ul Haq from the IIED. He stressed the fact that COP15 is new in its way of proceeding: it has so to say upgraded itself to a summit, in which many heads of state will participate. The experts and diplomats may very well not reach a shared text or decision, and the same may be true for the ministers who will come to Copenhagen. But there will be an enormous stress on the heads of state to reach somewhere, so as not to return home defeated. This process is new and it is, in a way, out of control, as COP15 moves into uncharted territory.
From all the narratives and testimonies it became clear that CAN has this great strength to give people the opportunity to influence political events by capacitating them to a high degree. This gives the whole movement around CAN, in which many young people are involved, a great dynamism and it is a kind of fresh wind that moves through the Bella Center. Seán McDonagh confirmed that this has been the case in the many COP meetings in which CAN is present: they make it possible that public opinion, through a network of NGOs, influences the negotiations.
A last remark that struck me powerfully concerns the requirements set out for good networks: transparency, accountability and the flow of information. This is good advice for the Ignatian Networks (particularly the one on ecology) – I interpret the terms: transparency means openness to everyone’s opinion and input, particularly the input from the ones who are usually silenced; accountability means that the network has to serve its goals and that this must become clear in what the network does and effects; flow of information: the network is a place for exchange of information and for transfer of information so that no power games are being played on account of being in the possession or not of information.
I made one personal reflection at the end of this CAN meeting (of which I hope there will be many more): what is at stake is that we learn to act as worldwide citizens. Thinking in terms of countries and regions stimulates the creativity of differences (and I applaud that), but it requires also the insight that these countries and regions belong together in a larger whole that encompasses the whole planet. When differences solidify into the vested interests of individual countries and regions, opposing them in a battle for resources and power, it is probably not possible to answer the climate crisis in a constructive way. When, on the contrary, the differences enter into a constructive dialogue, in which a common, shared decision is taken about how to arrange and organize our planet in fairness, equity and justice amongst human beings, but also towards other creatures and creation as a whole, then a worldwide crisis as the one we find ourselves in, can be addressed. I am wondering whether COP15 takes sufficiently into account this worldwide, holistic perspective in which nation differences provide a creative tool without leading into the dead end street of particular interests to be defended and fulfilled in a fierce battle that does so at the expense of the weaker nations. I will be looking during the next days for those people and organizations that have this broad worldwide perspective at heart.