Thursday, 24 December 2009

FLOP15: Project Survived

The Dutch segment of Project Survival NL has been back on 'familiar' soil for several days now, without actually having seen the soil. The Netherlands has been covered with a beautiful white blanket ever since the Copenhagen Express arrived in Utrecht last Sunday. The snow had pretty chaotic effects on all Dutch trains and busses but also on European air traffic, so we hope all our African friends have been able to get home safely. We know that some had to endure some extra hours of waiting due to delayed and cancelled flights.

We hope they are home, also to dive back into their normal lives so they can try to forget the debacle which played itself out in Copenhagen. The world can do absolutely nothing with the flimsy agreement which has been optimistically named the Copenhagen Accord. The text fails to include any hard figures and leaves so much wiggle space that even the largest dinosaurs such as the US will have no problem continuing on their old route. The insignificance of the text is further demonstrated by the introductory words: the Conference of Parties 'notes' the text, which says nothing more than that its existence is recognized... Two years of preparation wasted!

Although the disappointment in the world leaders and politics as a whole was large within our project group we made the best of it and had some great final days! We had an excellent Eritrean dinner on Friday with nearly the entire group. A small piece of Africa was a welcome change after some weeks of European winter: "Finally, real food!" We took over the restaurant with our laughter, running around, conversations by the heater, speeches and the various clapping games which closed off the evening and along with it a very successful project! To really finish everything off we danced the night away between Copenhagens highschool students. After making some final arrangements the next day we had a last get together which resulted in one big photosession and some final speeches. Final conclusion: everybody was very happy and satisfied with the project and we had two great weeks together.

So, where we would like to rename COP15 to FLOP15, I think we can also rename the project: Project Successful.

Claude, Ebrima, Ezilon, Hubert, Mangaliso, Mahawa, Margaret, Matias, Matildah: THANK YOU!!


Thursday, 17 December 2009

Snowy Copenhagen

Monday evening Mangaliso invited everybody for diner at his hosts’ place. We were almost complete, only Roy and Jacomien couldn’t make it for dinner. It was really nice to see everyone together outside the Bella Center, in a comfortable Danish living room. We had discussions about what should happen at the conference and were trying to find out what cultural differences there are, but most of all had lots of fun.

Wednesday restrictions for the amount of NGO-representatives inside the Bella Center started and every day there are less NGO-representatives allowed in the Bella Center. Project Survival is not on top of the priority list, so yesterday was the last chance to get in for the ones with a NGO-badge. Fortunately most of the African youth delegates are an official part of their delegation and can get in.

Yesterday only four the Dutch students could get inside and ran around the whole Bella Center and left no journalist unaware of Project Survival. We still are trying to get as much media attention as possible. The base camp for the three outside the Bella Center was settled in a cozy living room of Suuz’ host and we spend the day behind our laptops drinking tea.

Today we were in a large, empty hall, not nearly as cozy as the living room from Suuz’ host. The Danish government arranged an alternative conference here. It only exists of a live video connection with the plenary meeting. The hall was nearly empty, just like all the beautiful promises on the screen made by the national leaders about how we all should save the planet.

Today we discussed what we can do after the climate conference, because we think our story has not finished yet. The under-representation of developing countries and the lack of youth representatives will still be important issues after this conference.

We would like to talk with the United Nations, to ask them what their point of view is on these issues. There a huge difference between the sizes of the delegations. For example the Brazilian delegation consists of 700 people, while the Guinean delegation only consist of 8 people, and some countries have even less delegates. At the conference a lot of meetings take place at the same time. With only a couple of delegates it is impossible to attend all meetings and be aware of what has been discussed. There are no rules for how big a delegation can or should be. So after Copenhagen, the Project will Survive.

Yesterday Copenhagen turned into a snow landscape. So after having diner in the city, Suuz and I could go home without playing in the snow, which resulted in a snowy Project Survival artwork.


Monday, 14 December 2009

Meeting the ministers

Today! A meeting with the Dutch Minister of Environment, Cramer and Development Cooperation, Koenders. Four of us could attend the meeting and also the two Dutch youth delegates, Don and Michaela were there. Unfortunately the people from the Dutch Youth Copenhagen Coalition were still in line waiting for their accreditation. They stood in the cold for hours and so did the last three members of PSNL: Merit, Nicolein and Liset.

It is crazy around here. Way too many people are accreditated and there will be some major cuts in people that are allowed to enter the building. For tomorrow and Wednesday, we need secondary badges, which most of us have, fortunately!

But there are so many people who arrived only this weekend and aren't allowed to go inside! Poorly organised, I say. Thursday only 1000 people from NGOs have access and Friday only 90! So that will be a no-go for us, I suppose. Also our youth delegates from Africa have troubles keeping there accreditation as have the 50 Global South youth delegates from the other UNFCCC youth project.... But minister Cramer ensured us that she would do here best to arrange accreditation for these people who came from so far away and would be literally standing in the cold when they couldn't go in.

On the meeting with the ministers: they are really supportive and agree that youth participation should be encouraged and that underrepresentation of developing nations should be addressed on more occasions than only this COP15. As I heard from Matildah, so many decisions already have been made in earlier meetings through out the year and before! This is not a one-time issue Project Survival is touching upon. In my opinion a fair deal is not even possible with this kind of history. The whole circus here is based on quicksand, or at least not a good fundament.

So, do we want a deal now? Do we want reductions for developed countries to be 40%, do we want more than 200 billion for adaptation and mitigation? Do I even know what I'm talking about? I don't think so. I don't even have time read more on these subjects, let alone keep up with the news here in Copenhagen!

But what I do understand that the future is in the hands of people that have Ideas about Other People. Ideas about Their Rights and Others Mistakes. Is there anybody who will defend other needs than their own? I don't feel Dutch, I feel like a World inhabitant. And I think many of the youth here feel this way. If it was up to us we would already have a deal by now.

And all the 'old' people are telling us how they are tied to all this diplomacy and buraucracy, how we, the young people, can make a difference by saying stuff they can only think. They're wrong! They were also young once, they had also ideals once! They still do. And I believe that if everybody just reminds him or herself why they came here in the first place, how they became involved in the government and climate change issues, they'll know we all want the same thing! And hopefully our youth delegates can contribute to this process of going back to the core issues and stop thinking in numbers and percentages.

And if those values have to be translated in numbers and percentages, fine! But what I plea for is a mentality change, a step in the direction of unity. There is only one world, there is no Planet B!

Suzanne dlF

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Demonstrating for a FAB deal

Yesterday we went to the big demonstration in Copenhagen for a FAB deal at the conference, Fair, Ambitious and Binding. 100 000 people gathered at a city square and after an hour there was a big march to the Conference Center, a 6 kilometer walk. We were somewhere in the middle of the enormous row of people. As far as you could look behind and ahead of us there were people with flags or signs from numerous organizations. After one and a half hours of walking, it became dark and we were getting cold, so we decided to go back to the city with the metro. It was a very powerful and almost totally peaceful demonstration.

Last night there was the NGO party in club VEGA, one of the biggest clubs in Copenhagen. . When we arrived it looked like a boring party, because there was some music, but nobody danced and everybody was just talking. Then the salsa band started playing and the party started in a few minutes. After the salsa band a Balkan band preformed and people from all over the world danced, laughed and partied together and we had a great evening.

Today the last Project Survival students from the Netherlands arrived. They traveled with the Copenhagen Express, the train with the Dutch delegation and other Dutch NGO’s. Tomorrow we will be fully complete, when the two youth delegates from Guinea have arrived.
Now we are looking forward to a meeting with two Dutch ministers tomorrow, Minister Cramer for Environment and Minister Koenders for Development Cooperation.


Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Butterfly Effect

At 1 o'clock this afternoon we made our way to a youth side event in the Niels Bohr room of the Bella Center. Yvo de Boer, secretary general of the UNFCCC, was invited to address the youth on their role in the climate negotiations. There was clearly a huge interest in the meeting because the room was overflowing with cameras and youth in orange t-shirts (another small triomph for the Dutch government...). Unable to sit down in the full room we took our places crammed in by the exit.

The panel at the front of the room got introduced and then Yvo was given the floor. His uplifting speech about the importance of youth involvement at the COP15 was met by loud applause. However, the story that followed was even more inspiring. A girl from Mumbai, India started telling about how climate change was affecting her life. As she started her story a black and orange butterfly appeared out of nowhere and started fluttering around the room. With every wing beat the story of the young Indian girl seemed to pick up intensity. As the butterfly fluttered around the atmosphere thickened with expectations and hope. The story unfolded further, touching on successes of the youth in southern India and expressing the trust of the youth in the fact that the COP15 would become a success. The butterfly continued its flight. The emotions of the speaker were tangible in every corner of the room and the butterfly´s wings kept flapping. After the girl pronounced her final words the room erupted in a standing ovation.

That is what is called the butterfly effect...



Another wonderful day at the Bella Center, epicentre of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Today, all youth unite their voices on the Day of Youth and Future Generations, wearing bright orange t-shirts that say: “how old will you be in 2050?”, stressing the impact that decisions (or a lack of decisions) to be made here in Copenhagen will have on the lives of youth from all over the world.

Yesterday, Project Survival NL had a meeting with all Dutch and African youth in our project already present in Copenhagen. We were thanked more than once by our African friends about the opportunity Project Survival has given them, which makes all the hard work in the previous months totally worth it.

Our group of youth is just a small part of the youth present here, estimations about the amount range from 1000 to 10.000 people! And today is our day to speak up about the agreements we wish for, and the future we see lying ahead of us. As one youth so truly said: “you have been negotiating all our lives, you cannot tell us that you need more time”.

Suzanne Maas

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Let the games begin!

At 10 o' clock this morning the climate conference in Copenhagen was officially opened. Unfortunately I was still standing outside in the early morning Copenhagen cold, waiting in line to get registered. Luckily, there was enough liveliness outside as well: early morning demonstrations with drumband, having your picture taken with climate activists, and scoring some free coffee at the Greenpeace stand.

While I spent most of my morning waiting, one of the African youth, Margaret from Kenya, had a much more eventful start of the conference. She took part in a press conference by UNEP (UN Environment Programme) on the FIFA World Cup in South-Africa and the environment. You might wonder what they have to do with each other? Well, having 32 football teams flying in from all over the world will lead to a lot of carbon emissions. Therefore, UNEP proposed the idea of offsetting the carbon emissions of these famous football players by investing in mitigation and adaptation projects in Africa. A true win-win situation. And already 17 ministers of the environment from the participating countries signed an intention to do so! In the case of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, we will still have to see if they are just as eager on signing. But, let the games begin!

Suzanne Maas

The Project Survival people already in Copenhagen: (from left to right) Mangaliso, Suzanne M., Ezilon, Suzanne de la F., Ebrima, Matildah, Jacomien, Margaret and Roy!