UN climate change chief hails role of NGOs and faith groups

By staff writers
June 9, 2010

In an interview with the respected Catholic overseas aid agency CAFOD, Yvo de Boer, the outgoing Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has spoken of the "incredible" work of NGOs during the climate change talks and highlighted the input of faith-based organisations.

Mr de Boer announced in February this year that he would step down as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In July 2010 he will be succeeded by Christiana Figueres who was previously Costa Rica's lead negotiator at the talks.

De Boer has led the UNFCCC for four years and faced criticism from many sides, especially after the collapse of the Copenhagen summit last December. But his even-handedness, commitment to the cause and defence of the UN system has also brought him the deepest respect.

This week, at the mid-year UNFCCC meeting in Bonn, Christiana Figueres has emerged from the wings to begin the public handover process.

While she was doing her first press briefing today (Wednesday 9 June)), CAFOD's Pascale Palmer - who also writes for Ekklesia (http://ekklesia.co.uk/PascalePalmer) - spoke to De Boer on the role of NGOs and faith-based organisations in the talks, the hope for a fair climate deal and any regrets the outgoing Executive Secretary has.

Yvo de Boer declared: "The impact of NGOs at the UN climate change talks has been incredible in so many different ways. Without NGOs the public wouldn't have understood that climate change was even an issue. Also, the support role of the NGOs at these negotiations for smaller countries with limited resources to ensure they understand their interests and how issues relate to them is paramount. NGOs also act as the conscience of the talks - pointing out when questionable issues are raised."

He continued: "Faith-based organisations, like CAFOD, bring something additional to the talks because at the end of the day this is a negotiation about global ethics and faith-based organisations look at the world through that lens, and they take the issue and the discussions into the community in many different ways."

"There is hope for a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal in South Africa next year. If Cancun can deliver the operational architecture which gives countries the confidence to turn this into an agreement that is to their advantage, it can happen. There is the phrase that 'form follows function' and this is the order the talks must follow to succeed: talking about the legal form first is the wrong order," said de Boer.

"I do regret not having spent enough time with my family during my term as Executive Secretary. And perhaps one regret is that the talks should have had more discussion and less negotiation. Stating a position is only so useful but understanding the underlying interests at stake is the only way to find a solution. I suppose I could have pushed more on this, but people have certain expectations from my role as Executive Secretary - I have done many things such as speaking to the press which are not usually associated with the role. I have also managed to facilitate more discussion and ensured two extra UNFCCC meetings took place," he concluded.


Read Pascale Palmer's Ekklesia blog here: http://ekklesia.co.uk/PascalePalmer Her latest article is 'Bonn Calling', 9 June 2010.


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