Dispatch from South Africa: A Day in the Life of a Youth Delegate

NWF   |   December 2, 2011

Kate Catlin, a native of the Seattle area, has been selected as a member of the United States Youth Delegation to the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa from Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2011. A junior at Gonzaga University pursuing a B.S. in Economics, Kate is currently in Nicaragua interning with Soluciones Comunitarias. She will be providing updates about her experience as a youth delegate on this blog.

A Day in the Life – 11/29/2011

It’s day 2 of the conference and I’m sitting in a room with 5 other SustainUS delegates at 11:48 South African time. The only noise is clicking as we type the night away, interrupted occasionally by laughter over gchat jokes. It will likely be another hour before we leave. This is considered normal. And that’s what I love about COP. My fellow youth delegates are so passionate about what they’re doing that their energy gives me even more!

Today was MEETINGS MEETINGS MEETINGS to start getting actions and campaigns off the ground. As an example of what its like here, here’s a blow-by-blow of my day:

  • 8:00 – Arrive at the Durban International Convention Center early to pass through security with ease. By 8:30, the line will take an hour.
  • 8:30 – 9:30:  YOUNGO meeting: This is the international coalition of youth from various organizations from all over the world getting together to streamline policy positions and plan campaigns.
  • 10:00 – 11:00: Browsing and networking in the Durban Exhibition Centre. The hall is filled with hundreds of booths from international NGOs featuring a rainbow of policy asks.
  • 11:00 – 12:00: Meeting with the YOUNGO Finance Policy group. We voted to approve a unified global youth position on the Green Climate Fund and its operations. It’s amazing how long that process can take when representatives from all over the world come from different perspectives with interests. I gained a new appreciation for how difficult negotiations in the UN must be. The difference, of course, being that our youth group actually came to consensus.
  • 12:00 – 1:00: A group of about 15 youth stayed after the last meeting to coordinate a campaign promoting the Financial Transaction Tax (“Robin Hood Tax”) as the best way to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation. Pending approval from the Secretariat office at the UN to hang a banner, we will likely launch the campaign tomorrow. Ideas move fast around here! More info in the next blog.
  • 1:00 – 1:30: Brief meet up with the rest of the SustainUS delegation to catch up, compare activities, coordinate schedules and make sure everyone is staying sane.
  • 1:30  – 2:00: Ate a substandard beef-and-mustard sandwich in the Exhibition Centre café. Quick rant – the food in this cafeteria is not organic and there are barely any vegetarian options. The dining ware is cheap grade plastic and everything is extensively packaged. There is no composting and barely any recycling bins. This cafeteria is less climate-friendly than my old public high school.
  • 2:00-3:00: Typing and reading emails.
  • 3:00 – 4:00: Meeting with the Climate Action Network (CAN) group who is focusing on the Financial Transaction Tax. I explained the FTT campaign from the YOUNGO group and they explained what campaigns they were launching.
  • 4:00 – 4:45: A member of CAN showed me the two areas of the conference center that are designated for protests or demonstrations by the Secretariat of the UN. They are both slightly tucked away. He also introduced me to Warren, the man who processes requests from NGOs to demonstrate. Warren seems very supportive – he wants more civil society voices to be heard.
  • 4:45 – 6:00: Typing.
  • 6:00 – 7:00: US Youth meeting with Jonathan Pershing – US Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change. Very charismatic man with an excellent beard who eloquently explained the current US position. The way he broke down why the US blocked the Transitional Committees proposal for the Green Climate Fund was so well worded that even I was swayed for a moment. Then I remembered that every delay in funding only increases the likelihood that Small Island States will soon be swimming. Jonathan gave youth activists some serious love at the end, closing with encouragement – “You have to stay engaged. Your voice has to not be just in one place.”
  • 7:00 – 8:00: Typing.
  • 8:00 – 9:00: US Youth Meeting organized by the Sierra Student Coalition. The goal was to build relationships between delegations, share policy strategies, and discuss the best ways to leverage support in the United States to send a clear message to negotiators. But more importantly, they served some excellent apples and cookies that served as my dinner.
  • 9:00 – 11:00: Break from work to enjoy a Duke and Yale sponsored mixer of college students at the fancy Hilton Bar. FYI Gin and Tonic in South Africa = $3.50.
  • 11:00 – undetermined: Typing.
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Published: December 2, 2011