You may or may not know, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, but the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI), which is a stream of the talks, currently has on its agenda a number of important ideas for improving civil society participation in this process.
These ideas include setting up an online consultation system for every major agenda item that is being discussed. This would act as a means of gauging support, recieiving alernatives before they are discussed, and possibly during negotiations, but online so the proposer does not need to be in attendance of meeting (potentially); also for a larger number of meetings to be webcast (although this probably still excludes closed meetings); a voluntary trust fund to aid participation of observers from certain developing countries.
Whilst all of these are to be welcomed, by UNfairplay and by anyone in an observer organisation/civil society (all UN labels for people who are not media or party delegates), the submissions are still not quite strong enough. Submissions asking this, and endorsements by the Chairs of the negotiations, have still resulted in a block on this issue by the US and Canada….as you might well expect.
That is only one indicator of many, but one massively inescapable stumbling block remains, that is, funding.
Without funding from the parties (it is a party driven process as we keep being told) the Secretariat does not have the means to carry out the things it is mandated by the parties to do. e.g set up an online consultation system, provide transcripts, improve webcasts, organise a meeting etc.
The outcome of the budget meeting has been positive; as the SBI chair predicted, a 15% (maybe 22% increase if some additional roles are added to the Secretariats mandate) increase in the Secretariats budget for the coming year has been put forward, and just requires consensus to be adopted, we’ll update you in the coming days. Bernaditas, the famous negotiator here speaking for the Philippines, reminds us that the increase in budget reflects the rise in obligations placed on developing countries under the Cancun Agreement, including resources for bi-annual reporting.
UNfairplay might suggest that some of the money go into translation as priority no.1.
Then maybe the UNFCCC could consider funding its own website improvements aspriority no.2, instead of waiting on a donor for phase 2 of the website development which could just never come…phase 2 could be the beginning of increased global participation by observer organisations around the world, and, delegates who cannot afford to come but need information on the Adaptation Fund side events, and would like to ask Q’s etc, as well as offering their position via an online forum. I am not a techie, or a geek, but I am sure there are ways to supplement the current system (but not necessarily replace it), to aid participation and capacity to contribute to the UNFCCC.
Priority no.3 should of course be transcripts. We go on and on, but that’s because they could be so useful!
Even within the Youth Constituency I could not make all the meetings, but I know some of them are of interest to me, or I feel I should go, so what do I do? I look to the minutes and notes taken from the meetings….then I can catch up and contribute in full updated knowledge. If I don’t read the minutes, or none are produced, I immediately feel like I don’t know enough to be able to contribute in the meeting, or offer any constructive comments etc. This applies equally to delegates as part of a much much bigger process.
Why does the UN not provide transcripts of negotiations already? Because it is politically unsavoury. Countries like to be able to evade being pinned down on previous statements, and the details of their position. This ignorance (which would come from not attending, or not having time to watch the webcasts afterwards) is particularly helpful in confusing delegates whose first language is not English, who are inexperienced in the process, who are part of an under represented delegation, or just happened to zone out for a minute in plenary. Importantly, a lot of those delegates will be from countries who are already feeling the effects of climate change, and so the perpetual suppression of the affected voices goes on.
Transcripts don’t need lots of bandwidth like the webcasts (which are available to everyone), they are word-searchable so it should take less time to catch up than webcasts, they would eliminate misunderstandings arising from strong accents or bad english, and they are easily translatable. It has to be said though, our proposal of transcripts could never be implemented without a party mandate, so we’re working on that one.
You may be asking yourself why wouldn’t we put funding of delegates from under represented countries as priority no.1…well, Helena is busy number crunching, and so unless we are mistaken, we could have some interesting news for you tomorrow.
[for more info on some of UNfairplay's proposals find our report here]