From the first Pacific Women Climate Change Negotiators workshop in 2017, attendees have appreciated the opportunity to come together with their colleagues from neighboring countries facing similar challenges and further their knowledge of how the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) system works so they can negotiate better outcomes for the communities and landscapes that are their homes—and some of the most climate threatened places on Earth. And since that first workshop, which sparked negotiation workshops for women in the Caribbean, Asia, and Francophone Africa, participants have expressed interest in continuing to learn and advance their skills.
After hosting four introductory workshops in the Pacific in 2017 and 2018, WEDO and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of Australia were excited to take these years of learning to bring to life the recommendations of participants in an advanced training workshop, held from May 1-3, 2019, in Nadi, Fiji. Designed for participants who had attended previous workshops and at least one session of the UNFCCC negotiations, the workshop brought together 13 participants from 8 Pacific Parties to the UNFCCC to focus on three key areas of learning and development.
First, participants were guided through the entire Katowice Climate Package and other key outcomes of COP24 by a skilled and experienced negotiator. The Katowice Climate Package, which was the result of the COP24 negotiations, is the roadmap for implementing the Paris Agreement, and the breadth and intensity of the negotiations in Poland in December meant that negotiators did not necessarily see how issues outside of their particular focus areas were resolved. Bringing this content together in this comprehensive manner allowed participants to start envisioning plans for their work and engagement, both as negotiators and climate change professionals in their countries, along the climate action timeline for the coming years. The clarity this process provided was highlighted by a delegate who shared, “I appreciated the Katowice Package review…because last year was a huge year, and grasping what we achieved, what compromises we made, what we didn’t achieve was something I think I needed someone as experienced and knowledgeable as [the facilitator] to explain in plain English!” A deep dive into the IPCC special report on 1.5 ºC also painted a picture of what will happen to landscapes and communities if global ambition does not rise to meet the critical challenge of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.
Learning from experts to bolster their knowledge-base was only one aspect of the workshop; participants enjoyed the opportunity to practice the negotiation skills necessary to interact in the complex arena of the UNFCCC, and participate in simulation exercises that pushed their ability to draft, understand, and advocate for textual changes. Within these simulations, participants had to coordinate with their colleagues, representing the position of their assigned hypothetical Parties. This experience enabled the participants not only to learn from the format and structure of these documents and the negotiations, but also to identify peers with particular strengths, and in turn, recognize their own talents and ways to contribute to groups.
The third aspect of the workshop explored this leadership and team-building explicitly, creating spaces for participants to dedicate to their professional development as climate change advocates. Storytelling and public speaking exercises, coupled with team-building, contributed to each participant realizing the various ways to approach the diplomacy of negotiations—sometimes a compelling story or metaphor can unlock greater willingness to compromise. Furthermore, these activities contributed to these leaders’ ability to advocate outside of the negotiations and be spokespeople for the climate change issues with which they engage daily in their respective ministries. While this program is about leadership within the negotiations, leadership outside of the negotiations is equally vital to designing and putting into place real climate solutions for affected communities and the planet as a whole. As one participant shared, “The storytelling has brought connection to what we have been doing on the ground. The negotiations not only apply to the preparation for intersessional/COP but it also applies to the workplace such as negotiating for your Department’s budget or during a dialogue.”
As these participants reflected on their workshop experience and looked forward to the upcoming climate change negotiations in Bonn, they also recognized the power of the networking component of the Women Delegates Fund: “Standing together with other women in the Pacific makes us stronger to combat climate change issues that are jeopardizing our islands and people and future generations” asserted one participant, while another posited, “having this workshop has built our network with each other so we may stand together and fight for our Islands.” Equipped with climate policy knowledge, diplomacy and negotiation skills, and insights into their personal leadership, their solidarity may indeed shape a better future for all peoples of the Pacific, as well as the planet.