Citizens 'transform global governance'

Five members of the Core Assembly discussed their findings via video link: clockwise from top to bottom left: Chom Tam, Yufen Song, Helgena Trantes, Guillaume Kassa and Mulka Devi.

'All of us are needed. Leaders will keep delaying until our voices are loud enough to make them listen...'

Today we hear what the voice of humanity has to say about the climate and ecological crisis.

The Global Citizens' Assembly -  a "qualitatively new approach to public engagement" that aims to "give everyone a seat at the global governance table"- burst onto the scene yesterday as part of the multilateral negotiating arena in the Green Zone at COP26 in Glasgow.

The first ever session brought five of the one hundred Core Assembly members together to introduce the proposals they have developed as part of the Global Assembly in the run up to the UN's annual climate conference. It was led by Global Assembly team members Susan Nakyung Lee, Claire Mellier and Rich Wilson.

The members - from India, Germany, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China and Thailand - each selected the parts of the People’s Declaration for the Sustainable Future of Planet Earth, a document outlining the consensus-based proposals reached by the Core Assembly so far, which they felt to be most important.

Activist

"Due to increased temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns...crops are wasted...farmers are dying in our country every day," explained Mulki Devi, a farmer from Bihari, India, who has never received a formal education.

"Voices of the most affected people and areas have to be given more space in climate decision-making," agreed Guillaume Kasse from the DRC.

The members also recognised the need to "recognise different starting points and different responsibilities" while acknowledging the fundamental truth that "raising awareness is a stepping stone towards all action on climate change" and that ultimately, "all beings on Earth form an interconnected home".

The Core Assembly has now spent 36 hours together and is set to observe COP26 before learning, discussing and deliberating for 32 more hours as an assembly, with the key findings set to be published in March 2022.

Assembly members and organisers were also joined by a series of high-profile guest speakers, including Vanessage Nakate, the climate activist and founder of Rise Up and Nicola Sturgeon the Scottish first minister, along with Laurence Tubiana, Natalie Samarasinghe, and Professor Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC and IPBES.

Collective

"All of us are needed," Ms. Nakate stated. "Leaders will keep delaying until our voices are loud enough to make them listen." She went on to emphasise the fundamental truth that the climate and ecological crisis "is not just about weather patterns, not just about statistics, it's about the people. Real people like me, real people like you."

Professor Watson agreed, arguing that "the voices of the poor and marginalised need to be heard" and that it is a "legitimate right for all people to play a role in decision-making". A total of 35 of the Core Assembly members do not identify as fully literate, and 50 percent are women.

Today we hear what the voice of humanity has to say about the climate and ecological crisis.

"It is no coincidence," surmised Ms. Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, "that the Global Assembly...[has] focussed on equity and fairness.

"Policies cannot be top-down," she continued, as current institutions "struggle to grasp the complexity of climate change...if there is no pressure from citizens and no ownership of the change, then change won't happen."

Communities

The panel also explored the concept of 'Community Assemblies' - a cornerstone of this participatory initiative - where, using both the toolkit and information pack put together by the Global Assembly, communities from across the world can run their own assemblies and produce feedback and outcomes on a local level to feed back into the global process.

Attending to show her support for the initiative, Sturgeon stated that the Global Assembly "provides a platform for those often unheard voices. Voices of women, young people and those from the Global South."

She agreed with the assembly members that "we must listen to the voices of those who will be affected most by the decisions taken." She urged assembly members and those gathered: "Don't lose heart, don't lose hope. Keep raising your voices."

Best Yet To Come?

Ms. Samarasinghe, CEO of the United Nations Association UK, said that the assembly represents the "embodiment of proof of concept" and had demonstrated that "it can work, it has worked" and "has the potential to transform global governance."

She also stressed the importance of creating a "movement that is powerful enough...that drum beat so that governments can feel the pressure and also see the benefits of that pressure."

Rich Wilson responded to concerns around the lack of 'real' power held by the Global Assembly in the context of the 'official' negotiations taking place at the conference. He argued that these criticisms "fundamentally misunderstand how change happens" as "linear models of policy do not stack up".

He said that assemblies like these are "deliberately acknowledging and amplifying the power that every person has," echoing the claim from assembly members that the "voices of the most affected people and areas have to be given more space in climate decision-making."

Susan Nakyung Lee in concluding the session said that the Global Assembly represented "a choice of whether or not we want to tap into the incredible capacity that can be found in every person" or "to limit that pool of wisdom" to our collective detriment, concluding that "even the moon tilts when its full."

This Author

John Rembowski is a coordinator for Extinction Rebellion Global, community lead for The Climate App, Six Degrees sustainability consultant and an MSc global environmental politics student at the University of Edinburgh.

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