Global Humanitarian Forum

Leadership for Copenhagen
Photo © V. Krebs
Photo © V. Krebs
Yoshiko Kurisaki, traducción española Yasmina Guye, traduction française Florence Leport
01 August 2009

"We all are an agent for change. Let’s act from today", was the general consensuses that emerged from the discussion held during the second annual meeting of the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF), held from 23 to 24 June 2009 in Geneva. GHF's second annual meeting focused on climate change to call for public action to protect citizens, especially the poor and vulnerable people.

A number of leaders from global humanitarian and development agencies participated in the cross-disciplinary debate, and confirmed their commitment to alleviating the significant human and social consequences of climate change: "We all should immediately start playing our own roles considering the challenge at hand".

The participants also urged world leaders to put in place a new framework for reducing carbon emissions at the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Copenhagen in December.

About sixty volunteers from ICVolunteers worked to help organising the conference.

GHF was launched by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), and Swiss Foreign Minister and then President, Micheline Calmy-Rey in Geneva in 2007. The Forum intends to be an independent and impartial global platform where different members of the global society collaborate in order to address key humanitarian concerns.

For its 2009 meeting, GHF chose to consider "the human impact of climate change". In view of the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference, the Forum was meant to urge global leaders to ensure the meeting in Copenhagen to be a turning point towards change, the beginning of fundamental changes in our lives, economy and society to prevent negative impacts of climate change on human beings.

During the two day forum, various conceptual and practical issues related to climate change were discussed.

One of the major values of the Forum is that it is meant to provide cross-sectorial discussions by leaders representing a wide range of constituencies, including UN agencies, non-profit organizations and the private sector. Presidents of Timor-Leste and Guyana spoke about climate change and its impact on their countries. Representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF looked at the specific consequences of climate change on global health and the generations to come.

Some important common issues arose from Focus Sessions and Workshops:

  • What makes climate change different from other development issues is that those people most affected by it have done the least to create it. To work on human consequences of climate change, various stake-holders should work in cooperation with each other based on mutual understanding of others’ views.
  • Women’s leadership and participation are increasingly recognised as indispensable in the negotiation of action plans for climate change, as it is they who will be hit hardest by its consequences. For example, women suffer most from the lack of food and a clean water supply, because in the developing world it is usually their role to supply these basics to their families. Equally women could be an engine of change by establishing patterns of energy consumption in the family which their offspring, the future citizens of the world, will take forward. Some panelists reminded the forum that for women to participate successfully in the decision-making process they need to be informed of what is happening from the local to national levels.
  • All participants agreed that human activity in rich countries is the principal generator of climate change and that these countries must, therefore, be at the forefront of efforts to control it. There was division, however, over whether these countries should be the sole contributors to climate control. Some participants felt that since poorer countries were not responsible for climate change and had sufficient problems of their own to make tackling its effects a burden, they should not also be required to make changes of their own patterns of consumption and emissions to reduce their contribution to climate change.  Other participants felt every country has a duty to play its part.

Some conference participants presented their personal experiences. At the individual level, a representative of a youth group from Canada talked about her involvement in giving a voice to the youth of the world to talk about climate change in their own languages, not just in English or French. At the country level, delegates from the Philippines and Bangladesh introduced their national programmes to challenge climate change.

Challenging climate change requires concerted action from every single individual. Every one of us is an agent for change. As Kofi Anan emphasized, consumers have the power to change the decisions and strategies of manufacturers and companies by making the right purchasing choices. He reminded the conference that politicians will react if they know the people are behind them. He reminded the audience that politicians will react if they know that people are behind them. He ended his remarks by stressing that "tomorrow starts today”.

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