Have you ever stopped to think how the participation of civil society operates within the spaces of the UN and what opportunities for action are there as to influence them?
By Luiza Winckler
This was the objective of the side event on activism and participation, held on the second day of negotiations at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Lima. The representative of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Rabih El Haddad, talked about the importance of understanding the meaning of the negotiations from a historical and human vision, as well as the role of all stakeholders. The process of diplomacy at the conference is a very important point to consider.
According to El Haddad, delegates represent countries and these countries seek consensus, which is a big challenge.
The researcher told us the story of how the plenary would be established and that its shape and arrangement of the chairs have changed over the decades of the 20th century. “This was an important factor in the changes on the behavior of the negotiations, opening doors for multilateral agreements and the formation of blocks”, he explains. Another important point raised was the human factor to develop trusting relationships with the job done, and this is built over time.
According to El Haddad, negotiators are involved in a very complex process, not only during a conference, but also for many other events and themes of the UN, where they interact and are held simultaneously throughout the year. “Maybe that keeps negotiators away from the civil society,” he says.Then the director of the Climate Action Network (CAN) International, Wael Hmaidan said the space for civil society increased in UN events and that this representation is coupled with more power and responsibility. “Often, we do not use this space and not assume our responsibilities. Therefore, we lose opportunities because multilateral processes usually arise from the pressure from civil society”.
According to Wael Hmaidan, the international working strategy of CAN is to create a plan of unity for society at national and international levels, as many people think separately, only focusing in their work. The activist compared our work as civil society with the idea of pushing a rock to the top of a mountain. To address this challenge, we must think of these three points: height of the mountain, which is the same as working with negotiators to close the gap of our objectives: the lower mountain the better, i.e. we would be closer to the world we want.
Another point is to reduce the size of the stone, less CO2 in the atmosphere, the smaller is the stone that we push. And finally, always have more people to push the stone makes our jobs easier. Wael Hmaidan also said that “being at the international level does not help to change national policy necessarily”.
However, the role of civil society in this international process is important, actions and events are symbolic gestures that legitimize our role in the process; and side events are to present new ideas that civil society brings to share our power to influence locally.Informal activities are also important, such as the moments of lobbying and informal meetings.
No less important is the use of social media tools, where we can spread our message to civil society and be more active in the process. Therefore, it should strengthen local action of society to intervene before the negotiation and strengthen international action to mark our position and participation in the process.
The head of CAN International concluded that “it is important to remind everyone that the political realities change every day. Sometimes it seems slow and to move only millimeters, but there are key moments when political change occurs and this can be influenced by civil society depending on our performance.