Our Talanoa: Recognizing a Common Thread

Few things are as complex as the myriad relationships that exist between the countries of the world. Like unruly children, they’ve fought, made peace, gotten bored, and hit each other again when mom wasn’t looking. Putting them in a room together, even when they’re negotiating for something mutually beneficial, can be a hotbed of tension. The Talanoa Dialogue ensures each is heard, IMG-7730preventing conflict with one simple rule: no blaming others, and no criticisms.

Talanoa” is a Fijian word used to describe an inclusive, participatory, and transparent dialogue that focuses on sharing experiences through story-telling in order to build empathy among participants. During the process, parties build trust and advance knowledge in a way that fosters stability. The dialogue was undertaken pursuant to decision 1/CP.21 and slated for 2018; its goal was to take stock of progress towards the long term goals of the Paris Agreement and inform the preparation on nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

cr=w_1200,h_750,a_ccThe dialogue focuses the parties on three questions: “Where are we? Where do we go? How do we get there?” To answer these questions, there was a Preparatory Phase and a Political Phase. The Preparatory Phase began in January, 2018 and will conclude at the COP. Its primary goal is to build a strong scientific base for the Political Phase, which, in turn, will take stock of the collective efforts of the Parties to reach their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Once in the Political Phase, Parties engage in Ministerial Talanoas of 12-13 participants. Each is facilitated by Ministers from the Pacific Region or from Poland. These break-out sessions revolve around storytelling and discussion based on guiding questions. These sessions gave delegates the chance to speak unabashedly about their country’s unique circumstances and about their goals for the future. They promise an opportunity to be honest with partner states about what the climate regime and the goals of the Paris Agreement mean for your people.

If the Parties are warring siblings, the Talanoas are the peace that comes with age and understanding. Once removed from their adversarial positions at the negotiation table, the only realization left to them is that we’re stuck with each other, for better or worse.


The Room Where it Happens: The Indispensable Role of the Observer

_104735890_dui0ypwwoai5suoAs TIME Magazine recognizes its 2018 Person of the Year, observers, reporters, and advocates of the truth find themselves lauded among activists. The Guardians and the War on Truth were recognized as the Person of The Year for “taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts that are central to civil discourse, for speaking up and speaking out.” These Guardians are being praised for their ability to hold our public officials accountable and to bring to them to the task at hand.

Similar to The Guardians, UNFCCC representatives of observer organizations hold sovereign Parties accountable for their actions. They remind Parties of their task at hand—creating international IMG_9729_0environmental policy on climate change. UNFCCC observers can do this by releasing sassy newsletters, publishing revealing emissions reports, and advocating for and commenting on text released by the Parties. As independent actors — with fewer political repercussions than Parties themselves — NGOs interact in spaces and ways that Parties cannot. Where Parties are constrained by politic mannerisms, NGOs can act bombastically, like casual vandalism,*  and subtly, like “liaising with the UNFCCC Secretariat on behalf of the business community.”

Baby-Groot-750x500UNFCCC observers act in between the spaces of international politics, diplomacy, and decision making. Their role in the negotiations of transparency, adaptation, and finance are indispensable because there is no force quite like them. So as discussions of global stock take move forward and rumblings of excluding observer organizations rise, Parties, civil society, and the people** need to defend these staunch Guardians of the Green.

 

*This is in reference to a situation where some observers were de-badged or stopped by police when entering Poland.

**This is in reference to David Attenborough’s “People’s Seat,” which encouraged civil society to be able to encourage world leaders to do more for climate action.