This is a reflection paper. The opinions in this paper is the writers.
Being the Feminist Lead for Climate Change representing New Women Connectors at COP28 has been more challenging than ever before. This year's Climate Conference, COP28 in Dubai, posed significant difficulties in making a substantial impact compared to previous COP events New Women Connectors attended.
A challenging week
Already during the climate summit held in Egypt, there was criticism that negotiations take place in countries where it’s harder to express oneself. After spending these 12 days in Dubai, I felt that the obstacles faced last year were amplified. I met with an incredible number of resilient professionals and practitioners; amongst them young climate justice advocates who value intersectionality, are from displacement settings, come from climate affected countries, and face the consequences of climate change in their everyday lives. Yet, I noticed that they face increasing challenges in expressing their voices and being heard within the COPs.
Indeed, just the strict separation of spaces showed a difference in treatment and importance of different voices. While the Blue Zone was accessible only upon accreditation holding badges, the Green Zone was open to everyone. This separation is common to all Conference of the Parties (COP). The Green Zone is delivered by the COP’s host country (called the Presidency) and is open to the general public and non-accredited delegates. The Blue Zone is restricted access and is managed by the UNFCCC. It is in the Blue Zone that the negotiations take place and where countries often have their National Pavilions and associated events.
The COP28 concluded on December 12th after intense final negotiations. Throughout, I sensed both a degree of liberation and a layer of uncertainty. Questions regarding genuine participation and freedom of speech loomed large: Prior to COP28 several international NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch had expressed concerns, as it is known that targeted digital surveillance has repeatedly been used by UAE to eliminate dissent views from the public sphere. Communicating our concerns became notably more arduous in such environments.
I firmly believe that there are repercussions if civil society is silenced in such critical global dialogues. Despite the constraints, we as observers were present in Dubai, striving to make a difference. It is crucial for us to strategize extensively, determining the right moments and methods to convey our messages effectively.
But many of us are fatigued, especially the youth who have been actively engaged in these discussions since their early teens. Despair seems to loom larger, and hope struggles to survive. It's increasingly challenging for many to believe in significant breakthroughs.
The burden on young people to be the driving force behind climate action seems overwhelming. Yet, despite the fatigue, the green zone of COP28 almost felt like a festival, fostering a community spirit and a sense of belonging. This gives us hope and motivation to continue our fight.
The fight continues
Attending COP for the first time, I witnessed the creativity of climate advocates in Dubai. They adopted color codes on their clothes to symbolize and stand in solidarity with specific issues. They actively participated in negotiations, proposed texts for various tracks, and engaged in meaningful conversations and discussions at events.
The “Blue Zone” - and by extension most of the high level decision making spaces - remains inaccessible for many grassroots organizations, both in terms of physical direct attendance, but also in terms of vocabulary: the very technical jargon excludes people who hold other types of knowledge. But it was obvious to my eyes: climate justice advocates from the Green zone - community leaders with lived experience - are opening a space that is crucial, namely a space of communication and advocacy about climate change. Decisions made far away from the main population, in a technical jargon that is inaccessible to most, will not lead to the climate revolution we need. Instead, it is crucial that grassroots initiatives, who have knowledge and direct connection to their communities, are meaningfully included in these decision making spaces.
It is only together - Blue zone with Green Zone; experts of technical climate jargon with experts on advocacy; skilled policy makers and knowledgeable representants of the civil society - that we will bring about the change that is required to save our planet and its ecosystems
Climate and peace
It’s more important than ever to deliver on climate action, and as New Women Connectors we are proud to have partaken in signing the pledge for Peace and Reconciliation. In order to create peace and prevent new wars, we depend on real climate action now.
We won't achieve climate justice without human rights. We won't achieve climate justice without peace. We're not just a climate movement; we're also a human rights movement
Expectations and anticipations of negotiations
On the first day, a fund for impoverished countries affected by climate change was approved.
We all know that everything we actually need won't come out of this meeting. But we expect what is needed, what is essential, nonetheless. It is great that the loss and damage fund was approved and funded. However, much more is needed, and we must focus on fair share of resources and including local, indigenous groups sharing of knowledge and just climate transition.
Seyran Khalili, Feminist Lead for Climate Justice
Seyran Khalili is the Feminist Lead for Climate Justice, Project Manager and Youth Coordinator at New Women Connectors. She has considerable expertise in organisational psychology and psychiatry, education and public policy. She has been working with advocacy with great commitment to reducing the gap between minorities and the majority through dialogue, information and public service.
Seyran has led the Norwegian NGO LIM (Equality, Inclusion and Diversity) as a deputy board member since 2018, in addition to specialising in Digital HR and innovative service design the past year. She promotes issues of social injustice and actively participates in community debates.