The Lost & Found journey of Emily’s purpose in COP21

The Lost & Found journey of Emily’s purpose in COP21

I have experienced several situations that made me rethink what is my role and why I want to attend COP21.

First time was during my third day in COP21- a random conversation with a Professor from USA. She asked me “what do I wanna achieved here in COP21?”

Second time was the conversation with Tun Jeanne at the beginning of COP21 second week. Her question was: “Why are you here in COP? What do you want to do in your life? What is your dream?”

To be honest, I do not have a firm answer on what was my goal here in COP21. It didn’t even came across my mind that I actually could enter COP (until the last minute offer of accreditation). Thus, I have no special expectation in COP21 before I come. To me, my very basic purpose since I decided to join MYD was to attend COP; experience it; share it to more people- let them know this issue needs more attention and of course, to meet like-minded people from different part of the world.

In fact, I was quite lost in the first week of COP because I somehow made the wrong choice to immerse myself in negotiations- which I don’t really understand and capable of tracking it; and it demotivated me a lot. Read how I struggled and move on from Week 1 here.

Third time was while filling in a survey held by International Negotiation Survey (INS) after one of my gender day side event , specifically this section of question:


I was amazed by the choices above actually. I didn’t know that there are people just to come here to showcase their work of their government and organisation; or just to establish contacts rather than directly involved in the negotiations (from my perspective). There is a choice of OTHERS as well, what else can they do in COP? What about me? What is my answer for this?

Finally, this side event at the very near end of COP21 called “Mobilising Ambitious State and Non-State Climate Action in the Paris Agreement and Beyond” reminded me the same question again (View Presentation slides of the session). But this time, with results from the survey that I filled in above! Apparently INS was one of the presenter in this session and they presented their survey results from COP 17-19:

It actually didn’t came across my mind that the constituencies in COP are playing different roles or having different priorities- from influencing negotiations, to propose solutions or provide expertise; or even the very basic one to raise awareness. I am surprised that most of the weightage goes to provide expertise rather than influencing the agenda, which I think is another level of involving non-state actors in the negotiations- working together instead of working against the government. In addition, YOUNGO wasn’t part of their study constituency (I was like whyyyyyy didn’t I asked the presenter when I was there).

So I was in deep thought- does that mean youths are not useful in COP? Who are we in adults’ eyes? Are we just a bunch of kids making noise out there and have zero influence on the negotiations? What about myself? How am I useful in COP21 in this case?

I guess, youths might not be capable of directly influencing the negotiations by providing our expertise. But while filling in the survey form, it somehow helped me sort out what youth are actually doing here. I think our presence in COP is a form of representing the youth voice; our presence might enhance government’s accountability; also we are here to report about the conference to wider audiences.

Most importantly, I think we are here to learn, absorb and understand how the process work; and we might be those “experts” or negotiators one day later. One more thing I want to highlight was the option of “inform myself about climate change issues” in the survey- I kinda laughed when I saw this option because I thought people who come to COP are already experts in climate change. However, when I was doing this reflection on my goal here, I realised I have gotten a lot of new information and new insights on different issues in climate change because of COP (something that I wouldn’t learn back home, e.g. gender issue in climate change)

Thanks to all these unexpected hints that popped out throughout COP21 that somehow helped me sorted out my purpose in COP. It might sounds weird because I only get to know my purpose in COP21 when I am inside COP, but I view this more like how keep on reminding myself; reposition and reflect my own role in COP21 constantly. So, my personal goal in COP21- there you go:

  1. To find out what are the amazing things Malaysians are doing in COP, and let the world know especially our very own Malaysian back home.
  2. To understand how negotiation works
  3. To explore what youth does or can do in this huge event- (this article answered and somehow achieved this goal!!!)
  4. To discover how I can position myself in climate change

Update on post-COP after tonnes of reflection: I think I have achieved my goal in COP21, although not very satisfactory on the a) and b) part; but at least I know what I should do to make it better next time 😀

Written by: Emily Oi

Negotiation Tracking – What and How

Negotiation Tracking – What and How

This was how a negotiation room in COP21 looked like

This was how a negotiation room in COP21 looked like

Have you ever wonder how does a United Nation meeting looks like? You might have watched them at YouTube before but I bet you did not even have the patience to finish a session of it because it might be boring if you are not tracking it live.

Much thanks to the Minister of the Natural Resources and Energy (NRE), the Malaysian Youth Delegation was able to gain the opportunity to enter negotiation rooms of the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) as “Party Overflow” badges (national delegate badges).

I would like to share some of my experience of observing the negotiation processes:

What kind of meetings that have in COP21?

  1. Informal informals – Negotiators come together to discuss about ideas and stand, not as Parties. It usually happened with the delegates of the same bloc or regional group. The outcome of the discussion will not be take into formal text but might be raised in a spin-off group. It is more like a strategy discussion meeting to understand the opinions of the Parties.
  2. Spin-off Group – Parties will discuss and negotiate about clauses in a particular article of the draft agreement text. The co-chair or co-facilitator will go paragraph by paragraph. If there is any Parties do not agree with the paragraph, other Parties will gives their opinion on the suggestions of the former. There will be several spin-off groups going on simultaneously. Hence the delegations have to split and focus on different articles in order to join the negotiation for topics that they are concerned on.
  3. Bilateral – Different blocs or regional groups will meet up and build understandings among each other or discuss on certain topics that they disagree on in order to increase the efficiency of the whole process.
  4. Contact Group  All of the spin-off groups outcome will be brought up in the contact group. It is sort of like a concluding meeting that gather all the small negotiations together. Parties may give an intervention or negotiate upon issues that have not reach any consensus. This is like a finale and it usually only allow Parties with special secondary badges to enter the meeting room but is televised in overflow room(s) that everyone, including observers, can access and watch.

Which one I enjoyed the most?

I enjoy Spin-off groups the most because it is more specific, easier to follow and Party Overflow delegates usually is allowed to be in the room. It is more open and less sensitive than a bloc meeting as there will not be any discussion on strategy in the spin-offs. In some Spin-offs, I got the chance to learn from the Head of Malaysian Delegation, Dr. Gary Theseira. He will be evaluating the situation and explaining the stand of the main players in the negotiations. I do not have to opportunity to do so during the Contact Group meeting.

The best part of following the negotiations is that you get to learn a lot more about the stand of the Parties and to observe how the members of similar bloc work together and back up each other. The repetition of certain hot topics will arouse your curiosity to read up more about it. Besides, you will push yourself to read through the text properly, word by word. It might be very daunting to read the whole draft text (which went up to nearly 50 pages). But if you follow the negotiation, you will have to read the text during the negotiation in order to keep track. You will get to know which are the important/controversial paragraphs too.

The worst part of following the negotiations is that you will have to battle your sleepiness very hard while jotting down your notes at times. Have you ever had the feeling which you know you are awake and listening every word other people said but at the same time you know you are dozing and you can’t comprehend a single word that you heard? You’ll have to struggle in this almost everyday when you are tracking negotiations! Even negotiators faced the same problems. That’s why the cafes in COP21 always have long queue!

All in all, it is definitely an awesome experience to observe and to understand more about the UNFCCC processes. Hopefully in the future I am able to comprehend more about the interventions and the big pictures of the meetings.

Written by Elaine See