Thursday, 8 May 2014

The politics of negotiation: the uphill battle for Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

The second day of the conference was intense. I found the first day was very much spent on getting to know each other, to see how fabulously patriotic Sri Lanka is and that whole touchy feely 'we are the world, we are the children' sentiment, as the world's youth gather to discuss the prioritisation of youth as a group within and in the construction of the next set of Millennium Development Goals. 

Today I felt like the rug of solidarity (clearly evident on Monday) had been pulled from under our feet, as the world's youth came together to 'negotiate' (hah!) what the priorities will be in the Colombo Declaration - the end product/ outcome document combining the priorities of the world's youth.

'The Colombo declaration, which will be released at the end of the 16th World Conference on Youth to be held in Sri Lanka will be used as a global base to draw policies on youth affairs in the coming decade. All policies with regard to youths from 2015 to 2030 will be drawn according to the terms of this declaration.'

You can imagine the scenario. Over 500 young people from over 169 participating countries, all vying to ensure their interests, and the interests of their constituencies are represented within this comprehensive draft. Good if you're from a large region with plenty of fellow delegates here to support you. Not so good if you're from a smaller region, and have to fight twice as hard to get people to listen.

Today in the regional meeting sessions, we (the Pacific delegates) were part of the Small Islands Developing States region meeting, along with the Caribbean nations and AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea).

What should have been an exercise in determining what was absent in the Colombo draft to help guide what particular issue SIDS countries should be addressing, and given that all countries in SIDS are the most vulnerable to climate change, and that climate change is largely absent within the current draft, you would think this would be the natural issue that would unite us; one that we would all be proud to represent and advocate for. 

It turns out that climate change isn't important to some people within the three regions. We are meeting again tomorrow to see if we have made any progress on this.

On a brighter note, I finally met all of the Pacific delegates including representatives from Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Aotearoa. We met separately after the SIDS region meeting to ensure we as the Pacific are on the same page, to agree that climate change, will be our main priority in terms of global issues which impact severely on SIDS youth and their livelihood. We talked, we laughed, we did it ... you know the Island way. And it felt great to give ourselves that space. We are not attempting to recreate the wheel, we are simply asking member states to recommit to existing impacts and policies around climate change, environmental protection and disaster risk management and preparedness, and for other SIDS countries, and the bigger regions to help champion this cause, and ensure it is reflected in the Colombo Declaration. 

Two more days left, and I see we still have a lot of 'negotiation' ahead of us, to ensure that we as (probably) the smallest regional grouping in the world, having the loudest voices when it comes to representing and advocating for the Pacific.

I think this will do for tonight.


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