Written by CNBC
I entered the small committee of Alliance of Small Island States, AOSIS, to find a flurry of activity. The delegates had just finished debate and entered an unmoderated caucus to discuss the presentation of working papers addressing the impact of climate change on their small nations.
I am no stranger to covering meetings of committees such as this, and through my years I have become aware that there isn’t always a friendly atmosphere within these rooms. While a tense climate is unfortunate, it’s not surprising given how contentious the issues these committees must address are. The delegates here on behalf of their nations are all too aware that they are representing thousands and sometimes millions of people, that their words matter to their constituents and that the legislation they work to pass will have a direct impact on their countries and the world as a whole. Delegates aren’t afraid to make themselves heard to fight for their people’s needs, even if that means stepping on some (or many) toes.
But this committee felt different; I felt a sense of collaboration not only within the blocks themselves, but within the room as a whole.
I approached the block which calls themselves CAP, short for the name of their working paper: Climate Action Plan. Member nations included East Timor, Singapore, Jamaica, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonda, Vanadu, the Cook Islands, and the Marshall Islands. Their Climate Action Plan presents a variety of solutions to global warming in the form of biodiversity initiatives, animal welfare programs and preventative environmental measures in addition to education programs, youth advocacy programs, and communication and infrastructure initiatives.
I knew CAP would be deciding who would present their working paper, a document they had been carefully crafting for hours, during an author’s panel, and I expected there to be some fighting (or at least some passive aggressive comments). But I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only were they all smiling, but some members of the delegation offered up their speaking time to other members of their block. Everyone was happy to acknowledge the work and expertise of the other members of their block. One delegate even referred to it as their “brain-baby.” Their pride in their hard work and the fact that they had accomplished the composition of the document together was evident above all else.
I spoke to the delegate from Vanadu to get a better idea of the goals of their working paper as well as how he felt about working with other small nation states for the duration of the weekend. He was quick to speak about the other members of the block, drawing my attention to the fact that the other countries he’s working with come from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds early in our conversation.
In speaking about the committee as a whole he told me, “What we’re really going for is a more collaborative mechanism of dealing with infrastructure [and] communication... [We’re] making sure that we’re able to pass policies and have the funding for [them]... by entertaining a plethora of opinions we really feel that we can go for not only effective solutions, but also feasible solutions that have a possibility of passing.”
After hearing the collaborative words spoken by the delegation of Vanadu, I couldn’t help but think that there is no better way to honor the mission of AOSIS than by approaching the committee with such a positive attitude. Founded in 1990, AOSIS is an intergovernmental organization which works primarily to address global warming. The small and low-lying coastal or island states banded together to address issues affecting them that the broader world had failed to address.
This spirit of solidarity was clearly present in the room today, and as I exited the small committee, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful about the future of these states, despite the overwhelming obstacles global warming presents. There’s nothing as powerful or as encouraging as a people facing similar issues coming together with positive attitudes in hopes of reaching a solution.