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Thursday, 2 December 2010

UNfair play at the UN Climate Change Conference

Charlie Young (5th from right) and the Kiribati delegation
An ex-student of mine is in Cancun at the moment at the UNFCCC. One the things he is doing is helping the delegation from Kiribati (one of the countries most in danger from climate change) to fulfil their obligations at the event and punch their weight. He is 18 years old and can make a difference. That is great for him but a ridiculous situation for Kiribati. His group (can be found at are concentrating on how unfair these negotiations are for the small countries who end up being affected the most by climate change. I will quote directly what they say:

"At the UN climate negotiations in Cancùn, on average every 10 million people living on the African continent are represented by 2 delegates in comparison with 8 per 10 million inhabitants of the EU.
It has been announced by the secretariat that no more than 6 official meetings should go on at once, yet in Cancùn just under half of the delegations have 5 or less representatives. This means that they would have to sacrifice not only one of the main meetings but also group meetings and side events.
The countries who end up having to sacrifice meetings tend to not only be those which are least economically developed but also those which are must susceptible to the adverse affects of climate change. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a grouping who’s uniting factor is their vulnerability to climate change, has on average 3 delegates per country whilst the EU has on average 14. Furthermore Japan, as an individual state which has just categorically ruled out committing to a 2nd period of the Kyoto Protocol, has more delegates than the entire AOSIS group of 19 countries.
In the report we also look at other issues affecting delegations from less economically developed countries, such as their ability to access information across the resource and language barriers they face. We argue that the secretariat should provide full and complete transcripts of all meetings translated promptly into all the UN languages, something currently available in the other UN meetings. As it stands now there is no effective way of accessing what was actually said in negotiations. Journalists have to quote other journalist’s paraphrasing; delegates cannot hold each other accountable verbatim and NGOs maybe forced into a bias of interpretation.
Quotes from the 40 delegates interviewed over the last year, outline among other things the remaining severity of language as barriers to participation for some delegates.
Not only does this make the process unfair but : “Increasing the negotiating capacity of underrepresented and under resourced delegations would have considerable implications on the efficiency and direction of the UNFCCC and resulting action on climate change”
In the report, we recommend seven simple and logistically feasible steps which the UNFCCC secretariat should take to make the process of climate negotiations fairer. We believe that in order to fulfill its charter the UN must truly look into and amend the functioning of the climate talks to ensure agreement with its founding charter which calls explicitly for the “sovereign equality of all its Members.”

The Guardian will give the report some coverage this weekend but it would be nice if other parts of the World's media could too.

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