Friday concluded my two-week trip to Morocco. I sat in the flight and hipster hostel in London contemplating all that I have learned, heard, witnessed and felt during this journey. Everyone kept telling me that it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – and it was.
Everyone kept telling me that it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – and it was.
First, let me underscore that it was far from an easy ride, contrary to the general view. We call it a ‘trip’ but it was anything but – the sweat, frustration, sleepless nights, tight deadlines and teamwork in preparing for this was and is a full-time commitment, as Emily had warned us beforehand.
Among the things we did was, with the help from our buddies, planned, organised and invited speakers for our training series, sent numerous proposals and met potential sponsors, read up on our own about UNFCCC and COP, engaged with the many organisations and youth groups already in our network and the other miscellaneous but also terrible important logistic arrangements like visa (!!), hotels, etc.
When we arrived at Morocco, it was another leg of the race. We were engaging with the Malaysian Pavilion, which included helping out at the REDD+ Day and emceeing and those events, discussing with the people behind the Ministry and Malaysian Pavilion about Malaysia in COP, meeting with various people and groups we have recently connected with or were in our existing networks like the Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition, Singapore Youth for Climate Action and a negotiator from Ethiopia we just met in our hotel. We were also constantly on the move from one meeting room to another in order to learn about how parties were negotiating and responding to the implementation of the various headings like adaptation, capacity building, gender and climate change, etc.
By the time we came home from dinner with whomever we were meeting, it was usually 10:30 pm but we also ran this ‘escort’ service at the side whereby we walked people home so they do not have to go alone; there had been news of someone almost being kidnapped in Medina circulating so we did not take chances. If we did walk people home, we would return at about 11.30 p.m. That’s the gist of what we did at COP22 as a team.
We were told to pick our focus topics but I ended up covering things beyond mine, as my focus was on learning firsthand about these negotiations by attending consultations. I may have been unfocused in that way, but I learned so much just by attending these meetings. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a law student, spending 2 whole hours obsessing about whether to use the term ‘invite’, ‘urge’ or ‘encourage’ was really fascinating to Moon Moon and I. This is because we learn that the deliberate use and difference between two words in legislation makes a world of a difference in implementing it. I am interested in the law or policy-making aspect as it is a behind-the-scenes view of the thought processes that go into drafting them.
spending 2 whole hours obsessing about whether to use the term ‘invite’, ‘urge’ or ‘encourage’
I must warn future COP-goers however – the focus and the preparation are tremendously important. See, COP is a world on its own; it is what I keep telling the layperson, and it is something that new participants must be conscious about.
We were all interested in the negotiations on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. It could be our priorities and individual goals, but our two weeks were spent in meeting rooms and meeting people while theirs was spent engaging with youths and meeting people.
So, it is important to understand what stimulates you and helps you achieve your personal objective at COP, and be warned that they may change when you arrive. This is because what you learn in principle and what you experience will change some of your focus due to the potential of growth you sense, very much alike a plant moving towards the sunlight.
I expected to engage more with YOUNGO than I actually did, partly because they were more chaotic and exclusive than I expected them to be, but also because I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of meeting negotiators and trying to decipher what a particular decision meant in the big picture.
You will see a million different things happening at once – side-events on topics you are interested in, consultations on an issue you are waiting to learn more about, YOUNGO/CAN working groups, climate actions, ‘opportunity appointments’ (chance to meet someone important who is otherwise busy), networking events, and the list goes on depending on whether you are CSO, which badge you have and which zone you are at – and these are just what are relevant to MYD!
Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t be an octopus trying to reach its tentacles into every cookie jar. Reality check – you can’t be everywhere and do everything. That is why even if your focus may shift, make sure that you decide on your priorities.
I had looked forward to immersing myself at the ArtSpace, but because the Green Zone was quite far away and going through the security and all was time-consuming, it was too ‘ma fan’ (which means troublesome in Cantonese) and I only went twice. So I had missed several daily meetings and did not manage to paint the banners for the Climate Action (I ended up holding an ugly sign painted by someone else), but I did meet the most interesting negotiators and delegates from various continents and managed to have a more personal chat with our own national negotiators and the amazing people behind Third World Network.
Be realistic with your expectations, be versatile. Take enough rest and eat well so that your brain can function as the sponge it is supposed to be (#AjaranAdrian) and you do not waste a session or even a whole day without understanding and absorbing information. Have your daily meetings, be in constant contact with your team and communicate with your buddies – they helped us make sense of so many things that we were lost about and kept us in check. Trust me, you will need it too.
Last but certainly not least, immerse yourself in the experience and have fun!
Written by Nachatira Thuraichamy
Edited by Choy Moon Moon