In December 2015 the Rural Women’s Assembly sent a delegation to the COP21 in Paris. RWA hosted several side-events in collaboration with other organisations and partners. These included: Women’s movement building for ecological and climate justice; Women united for food energy and climate justice; Towards a post-mining society and economy: We have the alternatives; Africa is not for sale! A dialogue with African negotiators!
The delegation of women who attended COP 21 shared the following key lessons from their experience in Paris:
One of the key observations was that RWA participated in COP 21 however; some felt they were invisible and few, even though they were eventually able to claim the space as African women. They were not able to connect with the African delegation of negotiators, decision makers, nor NGOs.
Instead those NGOs that participate in actual negotiations represent and report to their governments. There was also very little contact between these negotiators and people’s spaces. Some participants felt that they might have made a more meaningful contribution should they have been part of their governments’ delegation.
The official regional delegations from Africa were very small, very weak and ill prepared. It was very clear that some African countries were in the dark on important aspects of the negotiations. This raised questions about why African governments even participate in COP negotiations. Participants also felt that their governments are failing them and unable to advocate effectively for the needs of small scale farmers.
By and large, some participants felt that negotiators at the COP are not in touch and disconnected from the reality of many people who suffer the consequences of climate change. Their main agenda is to promote the interests of the powerful. It also came as a shock that whilst food security was in the COP agenda, it was not seen as a priority. Neither is land part of these negotiations.
Despite the challenges, RWA was able to claim the space. They held 3 commissions on water, land and energy; extractives; and agroecology. These commissions were used to bring the voice of rural women and Africa to COP and at the same time showcasing their alternative solutions to climate change.
There was also a view from the RWA at COP that there was an absence of farmers and local activists in the climate justice movement, it was too Northern driven.