The heart behind the suit

Bonn’s nightlife is one of the most active in the world! Naaah, just kidding. Actually, one might say the exact opposite. We are downtown, it’s 10 p.m. and there is no one around but us. Nonetheless, me and my friend have a goal: joining a small party at a local pub. Whose party?

To tell you the story I must go just a little back in time. Now, we are at COP23, in the Bonn Zone. It’s 5 p.m., the day is getting tiring so we take a break from work and go outside. We had just gotten to chat and breath some fresh air when a man shows up in front of us. He is wearing a suit, and seems to be in his 30s. “Do you have a lighter?”, he asks. We start talking to him, telling him about us and what we do here. He laughs and jokes with us, shows interest in our work, you know, he seems to be a quiet, smart man.

Surprisingly, when he introduces himself, his first sentence is: “Well, I’m here because I am a negotiator”. A negotiator? In my head pictures of middle-aged, serious and, to be honest, boring men come to life. Yet there he is: a man, not a robot, who met us just ten minutes ago and yet invites us to his birthday party later that night.

And with this necessary prequel, let’s get back to the story. After a five minutes walk from the bus stop, we arrive at the club. Inside a group of about twenty people chats, having some beer and dancing to latino music. Our new friend greets us and soon the night leads us to a whirl of new acquaintances. As time goes by, I get more and more surprised by how friendly and easy going these people are. People that, in my vision, were supposed to be snob and stakanovist. My bad.
I am also more shocked when conversation leads us to the fateful question (as our spirit of reporters never shuts down): “What do you think about the fact that observers are not allowed to take part in some negotiations?”. Without embarassment,they agree on the fact that negotiations will go way smoother if that wasn’t the case. “If each meeting was open to civil society, it would be a lot harder for some negotiators to advocate the interests of those who care more about their wallet than their planet.” one says.

The young women next him adds “this is why I love spending time at the Bonn zone, between countries pavillons, NGOs and young people, rather than at the Bula zone. It’s more authentic, and helps you understand what people really want. This is what we should advocate for.”

Getting to know the men and women behind the suits and tailleurs is an experience that I would never think I would have during this COP and it helped me sneak through the backstage of a working environment that we always forget being composed of actual people. That is the chance to realize that we are not alone in dreaming of a better world, where people actually have the chance to actively build a brighter future together. It is the right chance to mitigate frustrations, start fighting next to each rather than against. There is only one enemy: Climate Change.

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