The invitation to blog about a live event at the UN was unprecedented. This was the first time that bloggers were given a reserved area in the press room, with a clear view of the humongous screen partitioned into 4 parts, one for each channel that you can tune into with the classic UN white ear piece.
We got the specifics on who will be chairing which plenary and were even able to attend some of the plenary meetings in their respective halls. I later found out that the word plenary means meeting, so in effect we were attending a ‘meeting, meeting’, though not in the sense that we think of a meeting. It apparently goes further i.e “…fully attended or constituted by all entitled to be present”. This is not the only word that seemed like “UN speak” there was also ‘capacity building’ and ‘knowledge transfer’ Many of the leaders in the sessions I attended used these key words repeatedly. Hearing similar words (in succession too) made you think you were listening to a broken cd player.
Back to the word plenary and its meaning, it includes the idea of entitlement of those present to fully participate and have their say. It helped to talk to and ask the UN foundation communication officers about the format of the meeting because it is very easy to get completely bored and think that there is repetition between delegates speeches that it the whole exercise does not make any sense at all. Is this a conversation? Parallel conversations? What about the themes? Adaptation, Technology, mitigation, financing? I was not sure what to expect when attending the meetings, but i can tell you this. The words in the themes appeared to have been inserted into prepared speeches. I kept on hoping to hear concrete examples of how countries have been adapting to climate change, and thought that it would be the focus of the meeting. What i got were snippets of examples from a few leaders like the PM of Netherlands and the PM of Mauritius amongst a few others. To be fair, the challenges of adapting to climate were succinctly enumerated by many leaders from Africa, including appeals for funds to ‘build capacity’, and perhaps countries have not formally figured out how to adapt to climate change. The format of the talks is clearly classic UN. It wouldn't be the UN if each country did not have a say, though you can't help but wonder if what is happening is a real conversation. Strangely, I came away thinking that perhaps its a different type of talk that one would have to get used to and, decipher. Is the December meeting in Bali going to be a real conversation about what the next steps are in dealing with climate change?
One thing that is undeniable is the passion and commitment of the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to get the leaders of the world to really act to respond to climate change. I would highly recommend watching his opening remarks and reading the summary. In addition , depending on which country you are interested in, the UN news center has been excellent in posting videos of the sessions online. [Note that you would have to download Real player].
The speakers from Plenary I on adaptation were from the following countries:Argentina, Guatemala, Micronesia (Federated States Of), Czech Republic, Cyprus, Honduras, Zambia, Ghana, Angola, Thailand, Madagascar, Nigeria, Italy, Netherlands, Republic Of Korea, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Andorra, Spain, and Guinea. I would start with the speeches from Netherlands, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria.
This ideo The Czech Republic was a small highlight for me. The president thinks the debate on climate change is one sided, and presents some arguments to debunk global warming. At the 7 minute mark, he details his recommendations with some humor thrown in for good measure. His recommendations are definitely arguable, but not his comedic timing.
All in all the ‘Live at the UN’ experience was like i mentioned above, unprecedented. As the UN figures out ‘how to talk to blogs’, and bloggers like myself figure out how to cover the UN, It appears that blog coverage would add value to future UN talks. One thing for sure is that the UN has made the first step towards making the proceedings even more relevant by embracing the blogging medium as a tool in reaching out to people around the world.