Journalism On Scene – UNFCCC Conferences from behind the lens

Kiara Worth

The blazing figure of Kiara Worth can be seen everywhere at the Bangkok United Nations Conference Centre; running up escalators, darting across the floor, treading around inside conference halls while negotiations take place, all with a large camera in hand and a belt around her waist, containing all her lenses. She’s hard to miss with her fiery red hair, and it’s almost as if she could teleport at will, or could multiply herself to be at every place in the large conference center simultaneously.

I managed to get a hold of Kiara while she was taking shots of the architecturally beautiful design of the conference centre interior, and despite her busy schedule, she was completely glad to sit down with me and my colleague, Kitty for a short interview. Besides her striking hair, the next thing one would immediately notice of Kiara was her bubbly disposition. She was incredibly friendly and delved into introductions right off the bat.

A photographer and digital editor at the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, the 35-year-old has been a part of the reporting service division of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) for 5 years. She has been covering all climate negotiations since COP20 held in Lima, and was the lead photographer at COP21. When asked about her expectations on the outcomes of SB48, Kiara, as a neutral observer, hoped that the parties would come together to produce something of high ambition with a long term impact, as the outcomes of this additional sessions are vital for the preparation of COP24 in Katowice.

Having experienced UNFCCC conferences since 2014’s COP20, I asked Kiara if she had noticed any differences since then. Kiara said that in terms of process, things remained almost the same. She mentioned the Paris Agreement at COP21, stating that as a fist multilateral international agreement, it was monumental. The agreement gave hope to the process in general, it showed that everyone could come together to agree on something and work on it. Moving on from it, COP24 at Katowice is set to be the next game changer.

As a photographer, one would usually get a completely different perspective from the usual. One of the things Kiara loves the most is that she gets to see the whole picture, whereas other people, such as the delegates tend to focus on singular issues, due to the enormity of the whole conference process. Behind the lens of her camera, Kiara manages to cover everything happening at the conference, from negotiation sessions to delegates, climate marches and informal meetings. Being a photographer also allows Kiara to learn about the different powershifts at play, and she also find it interesting to watch all the different components of the conference tie in together.

Kiara in action

Not many people are familiar with climate change conferences and what takes place within negotiations and meetings. The next question I posed to Kiara was regarding that; From a photographer’s point of view, what would she like to convey to the layman about these conferences? The webpage that Kiara curates was the answer to that question. One of the things she tries to do on her webpage is to tell a story of what it’s like to be here by firstly capturing what negotiations are like. This would enable people reading it, such as civil societies, who are not present at the conference to understand what it is like. Kiara also enjoys highlighting the humanity that presents itself in these conferences. Her ‘Around the Venue’ segment on the Earth Negotiations Bulletin webpage proves testament to that fact, as it contains pictures of hands taking notes, shoes, people having casual conversations in the hallways and on the floors, and more. Usually, Kiara explains, government officials are seen as institutions, and they bear a tremendous amount of pressure. However, “we need to remember that these institutions are run by people”, hence why Kiara loves taking photos of the in-between scenes. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, and that we are all people who are part of this process and it is why we need to come together to make this work. Kiara also makes sure that there is a balance between the formal political processes of negotiations that take place inside, and the civil society demonstrations that occurs outside.

“It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together, and that we are all people who are part of this process and it is why we need to come together to make this work”

The participation of of youths is an essential part of the UNFCCC conferences. I asked Kiara what advice she had for young people, especially those of us who are new to the playing field. She recommends that we be well versed in the contents being discussed at negotiations, and that due to the extremely complicated nature of these processes, it would be good to have a general understanding of the key issues. It is also imperative that we continue being active in YOUNGO, participate in the constituency and get involved in coordination meetings. She also urged on the importance of civil society organizations’ roles in these negotiations, and reiterated the importance of youths’ participation in demonstrations and interventions to make their presence known at these events. Kiara is a firm believer in the power of youth, and has even lead the youth group for Rio+20, the 2012 conference on Sustainable Development.  Specifically towards Malaysian youths, she urges us to inspire local action. Putting the conference into perspective for us, Kiara states that what happens here is very much in the political and international realm, which is vital in terms of conceiving policies. However, if that policy is not brought home and implemented at a grassroot level, then it is pointless. According to Kiara, the important thing is finding the balance between understanding this global process, but not forgetting being active, being inspired, and making life decisions that is in support of a sustainable world.

As our time with Kiara came to an end, Kitty finished the interview with a final question: How did you get into the photography scene? Working as a consultant for sustainable development at a global sustainability company, where she specialised in the use of the arts in development communications was what lead Kiara to Papua New Guinea. The country she lived in for 6 years was where her love of photography bloomed. Through her involvement with the UN via the Rio+20 youths, Kiara came to work for the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, where she has been for 5 years. As a natural storyteller through her love of writing and live storytelling, Kiara realised the power that pictures had in telling a tale. Not professionally trained, although her pictures does not show it, Kiara’s passion for photography since the last 8 years has been translated as an important communication tool.

It was the most interesting 12 minutes of my life. It is safe to say that Kiara is the coolest, and one of the most inspiring person I have met thus far. Her zeal for life is infectious and she exudes nothing but passion and enthusiasm, which are conveyed through her photos and blog posts.

“…the important thing is finding the balance between understanding this global process, but not forgetting being active, being inspired, and making life decisions that is in support of a sustainable world.”

Kiara Worth

Check out Kiara’s website and social media below:

Written by: Abirami Baskaran

Edited by: Shaqib Shahril

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