For three days in Suva, Fiji in April 2018, WEDO, supported by the Government of Australia, brought together 16 women climate leaders from 11 Pacific countries to deepen knowledge and develop diplomacy skills for the UNFCCC climate negotiations. These women—14 governmental representatives and two Fijian advocates from civil society—came together to improve their individual capacities as leaders in this particular space, but when most of them deployed their skills at the Bonn Climate Change conference a few weeks later, it was obvious that the interactions at this workshop were integral to the experience.

This workshop was the fifth regional training workshop hosted by WEDO since it debuted this capacity-building model in 2017 as part of the Women Delegates Fund. While one workshop each has been held in the Caribbean and in Asia, this marked the third Pacific training workshop held at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and several participants in this workshop had participated in previous workshops and climate change negotiations.  In designing and delivering this training, WEDO draws deeply from its experience hosting the Women Delegates Fund’s “Night School,” a two-night training opportunity for new and less experienced delegates on the eve of climate negotiation sessions. With this multi-day training, WEDO is able to more deeply explore the content on the policy and processes of the UNFCCC, facilitate more in-depth negotiation simulations, and cultivate personal leadership and professional development in a space where participants can focus wholly on the learning process before reconvening at the actual negotiations.

Because the UNFCCC climate negotiations are a dynamic and ongoing process, participants who had attended a previous workshop were able to build on their previous knowledge and get an update on the key issues for the upcoming negotiation session. One participant noted that the training, “added value to my previous training in enhancing my understanding on the whole process.” Additionally, the opportunity to practice negotiations is different at each workshop, as the participants vary along with the content. At this workshop, the participants also practiced a simulation of the Talanoa Dialogue, a process that premiered for delegates at the Bonn Climate Change negotiations and will continue to inform COP24 outcomes. Because of one participant’s experience in this simulation, she was asked to support her delegation in Bonn by assisting her colleague in drafting his Talanoa story.

Additionally, four participants who had previously attended a workshop (from Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands) were asked to prepare short presentations to discuss how their work on climate change was organized at an institutional level—recognizing the variety of approaches among countries—and their challenges and needs, enabling deeper conversations about participants’ work in this arena.  These presentations and corresponding conversations built a deeper sense of community and shared mission and vision among the participants, as did the presentations and engagement with multilateral entities showcasing their regional and gender initiatives.

Nothing, however, cultivated community quite like the public speaking session, which enabled participants to share not only their vulnerabilities and insecurities about public speaking while practicing and supporting each other to become more clear and confident speakers, but also their personal narratives. As each woman told why she worked to combat climate change, and the personal and professional perspectives she brings to this cause, the other women responded with appreciation and fellowship.

It was this fellowship that was easiest to see when coming across delegates at the Bonn Climate Change Negotiations soon afterward, attended by all but three of the workshop participants. As they individually participated in the negotiations, the participants later noted drawing from the foundation the workshop provided, but what would have been most evident to any observer was the comradery, coordination, and collaboration among certain Pacific delegates as they met in the halls between meetings, attended side events together, compared notes about activities, and/or shared thoughts on how to best follow the proceedings.  Moreover, because these women’s work crafting effective climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and programmes continues in their respective countries as well as in the international negotiation space, the full value of this workshop is yet to be seen.

For first time-participants in a Pacific training workshop, this experience marked the beginning of something bigger–especially as they participated in the UNFCCC climate negotiations for the first time in April and May—and for participants returning to Suva for the second or third time, this experience emphasized a continued commitment to climate leadership. WEDO is continuing to coordinate the Women Delegates Fund and consider additional ways to support the leadership trajectory of these women because–for none of these participants—should this workshop mark the end.

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