By the end of the week, we were exhausted, but it was nice to reflect upon how far we’ve come since the start of the conference and attend several more sessions in our interest areas.
Update on the women’s issues:
Half of the party members and their signs, following along with the co-chairs as they edited the item.
I attended an open-ended consultation on the draft of SBI Agenda Item 21, a proposal to enhance the participation of women in the UNFCCC bodies, with the co-chairs of the item. It was in the smallest room in which I have attended a session, configured with a square of conference tables in the center and benches lining the walls around the outside with room for about 40 people to sit. The attending party members sat in the inner ring with country signs on the desks. When the floor was open and someone had a point to make, he or she turned his or her sign on its side to indicate his or her desire to be called on by co-chairs Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko (South-Africa) and Mr. Kunihiko Shimada (Japan). This type of consultation session was much different from others I’d seen—it seemed to be a glimpse into the real decision-making of the conference, rather than a side event meant to inform and gather support. The chairs made sure everyone in the room (including NGO observers!) had a current copy of the proposed item, written up by the European Union, and Mr. Shimada went through the document and guided the audience through changes he wanted to make and why. Most of the changes to the draft were to ensure that grammatical flaws didn’t interfere with the meaning or intentions of the text. For example, he suggested replacing the phrase “Recognizing that women need to” with “Recognizing the need for women to”. You can see how a slight change in words or their arrangement can make an important difference in the next draft of an item. There was some disagreement as to whether we should make the item more specific, use stronger language, and ask for exactly what we want (Iceland and India were encouraging this) or keep it less specific to minimize sources of disagreement, expedite the process and unite the largest number of women and gender-activists (Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko spoke about this).
The delegate for India said he was proud to be one of the 9 men in the room for such a historic meeting. It made me equally disappointed, because more than 20% of the meeting should have been male, but also appreciative of those men and what brought them to that session. As the conference progresses over the next week, I will track the progress of the item and be as involved as possible as an observer.