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  • Writer's pictureCommunication NWC

CoFe Table Talks Climate Summit - Final preparation for COP28

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

On 10th of November, New Women Connectors held the last Cofe Table Talks session, in the form of a Climate Summit bringing together influential feminist leaders from different parts of the world.

The Cofe Table Talks is a project that aimed to gather feminist leaders from climate-affected countries and from displacement settings to provide critical information for COP28, happening at the end of November in Abu Dhabi. As a final round up before the international summit, the purpose of the Climate Summit was to review the thoughts and insights drawn from the Cofe Table Talks, which New Women Connectors commits to bringing along to COP28.

In the previous Cofe Table Talks - How to achieve climate justice? and What would feminist leadership for climate justice look like? - two major challenges regarding climate justice stood out in the discussions: the transmission of grassroot knowledge, and the access to funding for women and grassroots organizations. These are the two topics that we decided to focus on in this Climate Summit, moderated by Amina Khalid, Head of Sustainable Communities Programme of Initatives of Change UK.

For a climate justice that builds on the diversity of knowledge

In the first part of the summit, Umbreen Salim - founder and director of SEEK Feminst Network, Amer Alkayed - lawyer and chairperson of the Global Refugee Led network, and Vidhya Karnamadakala - associate at Equity Generation LAwyers, discuss how to ensure that knowledge from women working on the ground is transmitted and valued on decision making levels.

They start by reminding that in many countries, because of cultural norms and existing gender roles, women tend to be in charge of the household: energy, food, water and the management of natural resources falls under their responsibilities. As Amer Alkayed reminds, in low and middle income countries, agriculture is the most important employment sector for women. Hence, when extreme weather events occur, women are at the forefront: they are the first one to face the consequences, and also the first ones to respond and adapt to it.

“If we are disproportionately affected by climate change, that means we have more knowledge on how to respond, how to be prepared and how to adapt to it” - Umbreen Salim.

Why is that knowledge not properly valued on policy and decision making level?

According to our speakers, the high level climate discussions are disconnected from people working on the ground, their rights and their experiences. Summits such as the COPs have in recent years centered mostly around economic questions, rather than approaching climate change from a human centered perspective. Moreover, the high-level spaces are dominated by scientists, policy experts and economists debating on topics and in a language that can seem unreachable for most of the population. Vidhya Karnamadakala testifies that even she, as a lawyer, has felt intimidated: “When I entered the space a year ago, even I felt intimidated: there’s all these reports, so much science, so much debate.. People get down to the nitty gritty of “Should we use these carbon credits, or should we use these types of systems?”. The knowledge of scientists or people labeled as policy experts is considered more valuable than other types of knowledge, such as the one women gather from their experiences working in environments highly affected by climate change.

“There is not just one knowledge. There are many knowledges and theres is knowledge everywhere. Each one of us has knowledge that is based on our lived experiences” - Umbreen Salim

How can we make sure that knowledge gets heard and valued on a higher decision making level?

Vidhya Karnamadakala presents during the summit a tool that they work with in Equity Generation Lawyers (EGL), and that can be used to empower and raise the voices of grassroot and indigenous leaders: climate change litigation.

As an example of how litigation can be used as a tool to uplift spaces for the voices from the ground, Vidhya tells us about Australia, a settler colonial state, in which several legal systems co-exist. While the common law system, inherited from the United Kingdom when they colonized the land, is the national legal system, hundreds of indigenous communities that also live in Australia have their own legal systems. When working on cases of climate justice, EGL therefore tries to create spaces in between the different authorities, where indigenous partners can bring forward cases and interact with legal professionals from the common law system such as judges and barristers. Recently, EGL represented a number of people from the Tiwi Islands, that are located in the Northern Territory of Australia, and majorly indigenous populated. The rights of the habitants of the Tiwi islands are directly affected by the development of an offshore gas project developed by the energy company Santos. In this case, EGL made sure that when dialogue was happening, it was done on the Tiwi Islands and following Tiwi cultural protocols: some hearings took place in the Tiwi Islands, with judges traveling to the islands and meeting the local population there.

“The hearings actually took place on the Tiwi Islands, the judge went out there. It was done next to this beautiful beach on sacred land. There’s something quite powerful in that kind of decolonization of the legal space. (...) Litigation can be a great tool to raise the voices of those who don’t conventionally get a seat at the table” - Vidhya Kanamadakala.

To conclude, while valuable, hands-on knowledge exists in grassroots organizations, systems of communication and transmission need to be invested in in order to transmit that knowledge to decision makers on a higher level. This can in turn lead to a virtuous circle where information from the ground reaches the top, trust is built and decision makers on the highest level understand that it is worth investing time and money on these grassroot organizations.

Building trust with funders for flexible, non-restrictive and tailored funding mechanism

In the second part of the climate summit, Olanike Olugboji-Daramola - founder of Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment, Elsy Milan - Director of Secretariat of the European Youth energy Network, and Chistina Dexel - from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, discuss how to ensure that sustainable funding goes directly to women and grassroots organizations.

As explained previously, women remain the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. However, their voices are absent when discussing solutions and taking decisions for the way forward. Moreover, the complex administrative procedures related to fund distribution are not always adapted to grassroots organizations, who might lose opportunities because of administrative language and process barriers. This leads to funds being majorly placed in projects that fit a particular standard, while leaving out other innovative projects that are more hands-on and focused on the grassroots level.

Speaking from her own experience, Olanike Olugboji-Daramola notes that it is very difficult to get funding for grassroots projects. Indeed, funders usually have an idea of how they want the money to be used, without actually having experience from the ground. When applying to funding, many organization end up with needing to choose between two mediocre choices: either they stick to their grassroot project, which might not fit with the idea the funder had in the first place and hence lead to them not getting funded, or they adapt their project to the funders call, which might lead to changing and therefore losing that important connection and knowledge that comes from working on the ground. To counter this negative mechanism, Olanike insists on the fact that “funds for interventions around climate change must be flexible, non-restrictive (...) and tailored to the needs of the people who have the lived experiences, the people who are the most impacted, who are the most vulnerable, the people who are driving the solutions”.

As women coming for the South, it is very important that these fund are provided directly to us” - Elsy Milan

In order to make these tailored and flexible fundings possible, Elsy Milan gives two concrete tips. First, she explains that the funds need to go directly to women from grassroots organizations and/or women with their own initiatives, rather than passing through different other organizations and their decision and distribution processes. Indeed, when women from grassroots organizations have full control of what is being done with the funding, they can themselves choose, based on their knowledge and contacts, where to further invest that money and with whom to collaborate to gather and lead the best practices according to them. Second, Elsy insists on the need to build trust with funders by thoroughly reporting on the use of the fund and the thought process behind it. That is a way to guarantee that funders understand the value grassroots organizations can bring to the climate justice movement, and make sure that they think about it when the next fund needs to be distributed.

Trust and in other words proof that grassroots organization and women from under-represented groups are worth the money, is actually one of the solution to ensure that sustainable funding goes to women and grassroots organizations: “Practical examples of success stories, that show the change and potential when we actually give these resources to women and civil society organizations, or communities themselves, I think that can be extremely powerful” notes Christina Dexel. Indeed, from her perspective as a ministry employee, she notes that certain limited visions and messages are dominating and repeated in policy circles. To break down those mechanisms, success stories and concrete examples of projects that are led by women and grassroots organizations, and are successful, can actually convince funders to break the vicious circle. Instead, they will build a new virtuous circle: where money goes directly to women and grassroots organizations, who can then choose based on their knowledge the best practices to follow, and show funders that they are trustworthy, and that their decisions lead to sustainable and valuable change.

To watch the complete Climate summit, click HERE or on the video below:

We want to thank everyone who joined the different CoFe Table Talks. The discussion have been very inspiring and insightful. We are excited to bring these clever perspectives with us to COP28, and will continue to fight for climate justice, one that is informed by and inclusive of cultural values, Indigenous Knowledge, local knowledge, and scientific knowledge.


For the full program of the Climate Summit, with the complete presentation of the speakers, see below:

Download PDF • 256KB

For more information on the CoFe Tables Talk project, please click HERE


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