Reflections from a week ‘outside’

It’s a tired Sunday here in Cancun, and I’m eager to share some thoughts now that I’ve finally etched out some down time. Between a march, a 5-hour strategy meeting, and the daily battle to keep up to date with the hundreds of planning and strategy emails that flood my inbox, today is shaping up like most days here at COP. Needless to say I haven’t been to the beach. But I haven’t been inside the conference yet either (my accreditation is only for the second week, and starts tomorrow). So what have I been doing?

For one, every night between 6pm and midnight, between all the other things going on, I spent my time laying out our daily newsletter. It’s a finicky detail-oriented job, but an important one, since this is one of our main tools for communicating with Canadians back home. So when I get down on myself for not having written enough blogs or coordinated enough media last week, I keep reminding myself that our newsletter is central to our comms strategy, and that soon enough next week will come and I will focus on other things.

Otherwise, every day last week presented a new experience on the ‘outside’, as we were calling everything outside of the COP.

It all really started on Sunday night when we found out that our accreditation hadn’t gone through, apparently related to the new online registration system the UNFCCC is using (and we weren’t the only ones with this issue). That same night our wireless internet stopped working – not only at our hostel, but pretty consistently across the city (I guess you might imagine such a thing happening when 15,000 internet- and smartphone-addicted diplomats converge on a city built for beer drinking vacationers). It took until Wednesday to get our internet connection fully solidified, and Thursday until the people accredited for the first week got into the conference.

With our wings cut, we floundered a bit at first, but not surprisingly with such a strong, diverse group, we didn’t take long to refocus and get to work. With only two connected computers, we were a war room of laptop blog writers, banner painters, puppet builders, and of course paper writers for the students in the group. I’m impressed at how focused everyone was: still doing what we could to connect to the negotiations inside, support Climate Action Network lobbying, and participate in YOUNGO actions from the common room of our hostel.

YOUNGO meeting at Klimaforum

On Tuesday I ventured to Klimaforum10. Klimaforum is an alternative people’s summit on climate change being held an hour from downtown. The trip there was an interesting one – passing by the Cancunmesse where the COP is being held and through the endless police watchposts, to the dirt road leading through the jungle to the venue – a polo club. And what a different world out there! Among the trees a large open field was speckled with tents where sessions were being held hourly on climate issues. The main building offered an open, shaded space for more frantic laptop work. And delicious fresh food was served. The YOUNGOs got together at the Klimaforum to plan the actions outside that would complement those inside.

Dialogos por el Agua y et Cambio Climatico

I switched to another world completely on Thursday and Friday, attending the Dialogue on Water and Climate Change being hosted by the Mexican Commission on Water and World Bank, among other sponsors, at a fancy hotel in the resort district. The discussions were high level – how to include water more visibly in the UNFCCC process, particularly given the important role of water in adaptation. It was noted that, in the same way that mitigation is about managing emissions, the management of our water sources and securing safe access to water are a fundamentally part of adaption. While the conversation is a valuable one, I couldn’t help but feel like we really need less talk and more action – ironically the theme of the series of sessions.

Rights for Indigenous People

The final set of experiences that framed my week were the interactions I had with Via Campesina, the international peasant movement, around climate justice. This morning with several members of the delegation, we took part in a march with indigenous groups who arrived in Cancun to hold the Via Campesina gathering, travelling from Mexico City over six days to spread their message. We participated with the Indigenous Environmental Network, who is here mobilizing around the rights of indigenous peoples with respect to the management of their own forests, and saying no to tar sands expansion. The march was colourful, loud, and very empowering.

So it’s been an interesting, and full, week.

I hope to blog more this coming week to share my thoughts and experiences as they happen, so stay tuned.


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