GGCA in Bonn

From Vicky Markham, GGCA Network Development Officer

The Bonn Intersessional: Background

Photo: V.Markham/GGCA
Plenary, UN World Conference Center, Bonn, Germany. Photo: V.Markham/GGCA

Last week I attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Bonn, Germany Intersessional meeting, held from June 1-11, 2015. This is the interim meeting, a half-way mark leading up to the annual Conference of Parties (COP) - the  "supreme body" of the UNFCCC who provide direction to enhance international climate change cooperation.[1]

As background to the trip I reflected on the context in which the Bonn meeting is held. To set the scene: the international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UNFCCC. It established a framework for action to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties or countries.

The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

In December, COP21 will be held in Paris and will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. As host country, France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. It is expected to attract about 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society [2], and GGCA members will be among them!

GGCA at Bonn

Against this backdrop, I attended the Bonn meeting where country delegates converged at the UN Campus with UN agencies, interagencies and CSOs to work out the aspects of the climate treaty to be addressed at the COP21 in Paris.

Inside the complex, the UN Bonn meetings were in full swing when I arrived in the second week. My role was to be the eyes and ears of the GGCA, to observe the plenary sessions, side events and workshops for their relevance to our goals of achieving gender equity in the climate change framework negotiations process. I was also to make contact with fellow GGCA Members from around the world, seek out opportunities for potential new GGCA Members, and see what role we can best have in this dynamic labyrinth of UN agencies, interagencies and CSOs who wish to have impact in the process.

The GGCA members in my view had a strong presence at the Bonn meeting - with a variety of events, presentations, and advocacy work that made GGCA quite visible at different levels amongst the many players attending. GGCA members WEDO and IUCN, among others, for example, provided strategic and technical support to Parties and stakeholders in the UNFCCC process, and advocated for strong inclusion of gender issues within the UNFCCC and its decisions, reports and outcomes. GGCA members Women Environmental Programme (Nigeria) and the African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF) (Cameroon), on the other hand, provided a more local, country-based case study perspectives on gender, forests, rural sustainable agriculture and clean energy - all valuable in their stories and messages for this international UN body.

In my view, some of the highlights of GGCA members' activities at Bonn included:

  • Position paper released by the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) (one of nine UNFCCC stakeholder groups) on the 2015 Climate Agreement. It was developed with input from 15 women's and environmental organizations and a civil society advocacy listserv of 100+ women activists and gender experts across several national, regional, and global networks (including some GGCA Members). The position paper calls for an equitable and ambitious gender-responsive climate agreement (see it here).
Photo: V. Markham/GGCA
Co-hosts and participants of the Women's Leadership in Climate Diplomacy Networking Reception. Photo: WEDO.
  • A "Women's Leadership in Climate Diplomacy Networking Reception" was co-hosted by WEDO, the Women Delegates Fund, GGCA and UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The reception reviewed progress and gaps in advancing women's leadership in climate change policy making and in international diplomacy more broadly. It was opened by Bridget Burns, WEDO and Emily Fraser, UNITAR who highlighted the importance of spaces, such as the Women Delegates Fund, for full and inclusive participation (see more here).
Women's Perspectives on Just Climate Policy: COP21 and Beyond
Participants speak during side-event on Women's Perspectives on Just Climate Policy: COP21 and Beyond. Photo: WEDO
  • A side-event on "Women's Perspectives on Just Climate Policy: COP21 and Beyond" was hosted by WEDO, GenderCC and LIFE e.V. addressed the different perspectives women's rights activists can bring to the table when it comes to ensuring just climate action. Panelists provided regional perspectives on key elements ranging from appropriate climate finance to safe and sustainable technology transfer and development (see more here). [3]
Photo: V. Markham/GGCA
Participants in UNFCCC Workshop. Photo: V. Markham/GGCA
  • The UNFCCC "In-Session Workshop on Gender-Responsive Climate Policy" was held over two days June 8-9, and featured, among a host of other speakers, GGCA members Bridget Burns, WEDO and Lorena Aguilar (IUCN). The workshop webcast is available: Part I here, Part II here. This meeting was valuable in that it I for one felt it was an excellent opportunity for GGCA Members and our associates to present and discuss with country delegations, UN agencies, interagency and CSO representatives a diverse array of GCC terms and approaches, methods, local to global project examples and their outcomes, lessons learned, challenges and solutions to inform the next steps. It provided a valuable springboard from which our collective GCC issues and strategies could be presented, vetted and discussed with key players in the UNFCCC process. There was so much material covered I will not attempt to summarize it for you here - but see for yourself! All presentations/summaries can be viewed here, including those from Ms. Bridget Burns and Ms. Lorena Aguilar.
  • Side events are an important part of these UN deliberations, and although not a GGCA member event, one that stood out for me was titled "Global Proposal from Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities to Tackle Climate Change". This was a group of indigenous peoples, organized local communities and NGOs from Latin America, Asia and Africa who are mobilizing to protect tropical forests in their regions. Their work centered on a global campaign titled "If Not Us, Then Who?". Several compelling video shorts were shown to help us visualize the climate impacts and advocacy efforts of the featured local communities. Speakers, including indigenous activists and the filmmaker, added to the videos with their personal insights into their challenges, focus, approaches and goals. The event was a very impressive window into their strategy, and how an organized coalition of local community residents and leaders are able to present their local stories and objectives in the context of the UNFCCC and on the world stage. Gender played a large part in their work, particularly how women/girls were affected by and addressing sustainable forest practices, with associated messaging that showcased how local women and girls play a large role in understanding, preserving and protecting local forest resources. I could certainly see a role for GGCA in their efforts, as they represent a valuable array of local community voices on gender that can only enrich the global deliberations on climate change so poignantly affecting their forest resources.
  • We held a one-on-one meeting between GGCA Members and the French Delegation on gender and climate change and COP21. Our team of about 10 GGCA Steering Committee and Members met with 3 of their team to discuss what we are undertaking in the lead up to, during and beyond COP21 on gender and climate change linkages. Focus was on taking the concept of gender and climate a step further to focus on implementation and action, with evidence on those aspects. They were interested in hearing from GGCA Members first-hand how their specific actions, activities, strategies, methods, results and solutions could be brought to the fore. Discussion centered on what can be done on Gender Day and beyond, with specific case studies and stories from GGCA Members on the ground of special interest.
Photo: V.Markham/GGCA. Cecile Ndjebet (REFACOF) and Queensley Ajuyakpe (WEP)
Cecile Ndjebet (REFACOF) and Ellen Eyison Dzah (ABANTU for Development) Photo: V.Markham/GGCA.

During my three days at the Bonn meetings I also held numerous one-on-one meetings and conversations with GGCA members attending the meeting. Naturally this was fantastic, to put faces to the names on emails we exchange on our GGCA listservs! Seeing them first hand was extremely valuable as it provided me with insights into their work on the ground, challenges and successes they have, and how the GGCA can best represent, serve and what role we can have to support and amplify their work. It was incredibly interesting to hear, for example, about Cecile Ndjebet's work (Founder and President of the Cameroon-based African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF) on gender and forests and the four local (yet globally reaching) case studies which will culminate in a Durban, South Africa workshop, then hopefully COP21 side-event showcasing the studies. Or how Queensley Ajuyakpe's work (Programme Manager, Women Environmental Programme, Nigeria) on gender and climate adaptation through their work with rural women on sustainable farming and clean, locally appropriate energy through solar dryers, clean cookstoves and briquettes production. I had so many other wonderful conversations with GGCA members, and a number of potential new members. Space doesn't allow for me to represent them all here, but I hope to continue them as time goes on - you just can't beat that person to person contact.

GGCA, from Bonn to Paris

Overall the Bonn meeting highlighted for me how much of an impact and presence GGCA Members have in the UNFCCC context, and can have in coming meetings such as COP21 and beyond. From GGCA Member's expert presentations in the official UNFCCC two-day gender workshop, to the French Delegation one-on-one meeting strategizing on COP21, to participation in the Women's Caucus meetings and side-events, and hallway/café conversations, GGCA had a major and impactful presence that I could see. Bonn proved to be an important gathering that no doubt furthers the GGCA's members objectives at COP21 on gender and climate linkages. And now, as for next steps, Paris, here we come!

[1] Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice

[2] UNEP Climate Action, 2015

[3] WEDO Update