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‘Determination to forge a common declaration’

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Clive Tesar, Head of Communications for the Arctic Programme, attended the ‘2030 North’ conference in Ottawa, Canada. The challenge of the conference was to try to imagine what life in Canada’s North will be like in 2030, and to devise a plan to deal with that new reality.

By Clive Tesar

At one point today, a South American elder had everyone in the room hold hands, row joining row, people who had purposely sat apart shuffling together. The Indigenous participants from the African savanna joined hands with the bureaucrats from the World Bank. Then, after a minute of silence, the elder prayed, in her language.

There may not have been anyone else in the room of about 200 people who understood exactly what she was saying, but we all understood the intent. It struck me that this moment encapsulated what people here are trying to do. Despite widely different local concerns, they had all reached out to come here to demonstrate to the world their determination to forge a common declaration on climate change.

It also struck me that it would be interesting to see the same approach at the UNFCCC negotiations. What if all the negotiators took some time out at the start, to reach out to their neighbours, to reflect, to break through the barriers of language and culture to reach a common purpose.

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