A Deafening Silence That Speaks The Truth

487069_10151122020207126_1097731139_nToday, two youth from the Arab Youth Climate Movement stood silently holding a banner asking the question “Qatar, why host, not lead?”

For this devious act, they were de-badged, escorted out by UNFCCC security and promptly deported from the country. This, coming on the heels of multiple calls to action from the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, reveals the true nature of “engagement” and “participation” within the UNFCCC process.

The UNFCCC often vaunts its relationship with youth, organizing online town halls and Twitter  “Tweet-in’s”’ in an effort to remain current and provide youth with a sense that somehow, their thoughts, emotions and ideas around the climate crisis are taken seriously.

Youth are even given constituency status, a tokenistic tip of the hat to give us all a sense of our own power and worth. Visits by Christiana Figueres to various youth events and meetings are not uncommon. For all intents and purposes, youth are the next big thing when it comes to the United Nations climate change negotiations – after all, we do, as they say, inherit the future.

However, there is a darker underbelly to these seemingly meaningful opportunities. The United Nations has successfully managed to simultaneously stifle any authentic expression of anger, despair, challenge or dissent while at the same time bemoaning the lack of civil society involvement in the discussion.

Today’s act of injustice illustrates the fact that unless youth and civil society are behaving within the confines set out for them by the UNFCCC, their contributions are entirely unwelcome. Even if it is the truth that the COP18 presidency dares not utter, even if it is the truth that is pleading to be spoken – there is no ear more deafened than that of purposeful ignorance.

Today an action of bravery and personal sacrifice reminds us all that working within the status quo is not really working at all. We are called to stand in solidarity with all those who stand up to a broken system and the false illusions it entails. We are called to action; to use our voice in whatever way we can in order to disrupt the tenuous balance between that which is politically feasible and that which is right.

Asking the hard questions should not be an act of resistance and it is telling that today, at COP18, that is what is has become. Challenging an unequal balance of power and a mandate that is left unfulfilled should not be taboo. Yet the hard, swift and extreme measures imposed upon Mohamed Anis Amirouche and Raied Gheblawi are emblematic of just how little room there is for questioning a stagnant state of affairs here at COP18.

Today, I was proud and honored to be able to witness the rejection of the UNFCCC shackles and the rising up of two brave members of the youth climate movement. It was an indication that despite the odds, the risks and the consequences, we will stand together to speak the truth and demand an ambitious, just and equitable outcome to COP18.

Solidarity my friends.

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