The first two days of pre-meetings for the UNCSW have been about making connections – within the Anglican delegation, with delegates from other churches, and with the wider NGO community.
Our delegation is now complete, and what a marvelously diverse group we are – lay and clergy, old and young from all around the world. Our delegates have taken an active role in the pre-meetings: Canon Alice Medcof from Canada (pictured second from right) fascinated people at the Ecumenical Women’s orientation day with her stories of being at Beijing in 1995, and Emily Aldritt from Scotland yesterday asked a really helpful question at the NGO briefing about the ways in which we listen to young people (of whom she is one). In a few days time, we’ll be getting a presentation from Reem Fouad Najeeb El Far on the Diocese of Jerusalem, and Constance Mogina, from Papua New Guinea, will be part of a panel on sexual and gender-based violence.
And meanwhile we share stories amongst ourselves – about encouraging New Zealand women to do theological writing, helping orphans and vulnerable girls in Swaziland, coping with the aftermath of the floods in Malawi.
Talking with Margaret about the floods in Malawi was a sobering reminder of the way in which extreme weather events affect the poorest. She spoke of fields flooded and crops lost, of homes washed away.
Such extreme weather events are forecast to become ever more likely with climate change, which is why it was so helpful yesterday to hear Mary Robinson, formerly President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, address the NGO CSW Consultation Day. One of the things that had struck me looking over the list of official events was how little, relatively speaking, there was on climate change, despite the fact that “Women and the Environment” is one of the Beijing Platform’s 12 key areas.
Robinson spoke eloquently of the importance of climate justice for women and men around the world – and the need to make connections between climate justice, sustainable development, and human rights. She said:
I became the UNHCR in 1997 and I served until 2002, and I never made a major speech on climate change. It was something different, something that they were dealing with in a process under the environment.
But when I went to work in African countries on right to health; women, peace and security; and corporate responsibility issues, every country I went to, people said to me “Things are so much worse.” And it was about the rainy seasons weren’t coming in Liberia; in Uganda there had been predictable seasons to know when to sow and when to harvest and now there were long periods of drought and flash flooding; in the Horn of Africa it was much more about drought … all over Africa, in Tanzania, everywhere, I was hearing this. And I realised how bad it was already for the more vulnerable countries, and I read the science.
We are running out of time. We are running out of time, and that’s going to affect our children, our grandchildren, your children and grandchildren and their children. There’s an intergenerational injustice, and the injustice really affects those least responsible, those who don’t drive cars, use central heating and all that, … this human-induced negative impact on climate is affecting the very poorest.So they have to be the ones who have the access to clean energy, who have the access to the way forward in our world of production.
So I hope that Beijing +20, including here at the Commission on the Status of Women the Declaration of Beijing +20, will incorporate a significant reference to the effect of climate change, to link in with the Sustainable Development Goals and the climate agreement which we have to have in Paris in December. So coming here and being involved with women pursuing an agenda with much more support of men now … we have to link all of these, because 2015 is probably one of the most important years for development and humanity certainly for the last 20 years … we won’t get another year like this for an indefinite time, so we’ve got to make the most of it.
Can we make the connections and rise to the challenge?