Tema APPROVED: Long overdue, crucially needed, already successful
Just months before the first COP meeting in an Arab country was held, a new organization rose to the challenge: the Arab Youth Climate Movement. Activists from all over the Arab world – some completely newly bred, all with the assistance of IndyACT and 350.org, among other transnational climate NGOs – then descended upon Doha and, fittingly, led the first ever protest marsh in Qatar. For Panorama (which heartily approves the AYCM, as already evinced) two core members relate the AYCM’s story and planned future, including the connection to the now more than two years old Arab Spring. They also share the organization’s strong opinion on the climate-negotiations circus that in many ways have fostered the organization.
By: Ahmed Mohammed Kheir & Moussa Elimane
For us and for the world, it was important to have an organized Arab youth presence at the climate negotiations in Doha. Hence, the fact that Qatar hosted COP 18 finally put the issue of climate change to the forefront of the youth agenda in my part of the world. As needed and hoped, the appearance of twenty AYCM members in Doha achieved an impact on the talks and the world’s views and prejudices on Arab environmentalism -– a fact especially impressive considering that by that time AYCM was barely three months old.
Even as the issue of climate change has gained attention internationally during the last decade, the Arab and Muslim world it has often viewed it as a threat to their economies dependent on the extraction of fossil fuels. NGO and youth organizations have long mirrored this political reality. There are many reasons for this. One is that there has never been present a genuine connection between youth from the different countries in this region. Another is that our states have never facilitated the liberty of association around global ideals. In addition, our leaders have always played on our sentiments to divide us through their rivalries and jealousies. Today, if we are together, that is because we have skipped any locks and arrived to integrate the regional momentum as a prerequisite for printing our brand to the development the world; we are now together as a necessity when our fellow citizens are suffering on a daily basis from the effects of climate change. We are struggling for our peoples and for our children.
This struggle will now continue by building upon what we learned in COP 18 and establish ourselves by means of capacity building and by forming local, regional and international partnerships. We aim to hold events simultaneously across the Arab world as well as country-centric events. Our call to arms – which echoed also in the streets of Doha – ”Arabs, it is time to lead”, will continue to be a central tenet that our members from different countries can choose to express in a manner that is most suited to their own culture and norms.
This last point connects into the Arab Spring. Not only was the sociopolitical evolution of our nations that came with the Arab Spring – shaking everything in the sense of a complete questioning of all former political stands of our states – the most important factor in the forming of the AYCM; the wide, ongoing revolution’s fluidity is also reflected in the climate NGO it helped spawn: just as each country has its own views on what the ”Arab Spring” entails, the AYCM will adapt to its various contexts but will also communicate intensively in order to unify the now jolted Arab struggle for climate justice and climate stability.
Doha was a good start for us (even though the outcomes of the negotiations and the Qatari leadership were truly disappointing). We were well received, gained many supporters, were inspired, and our young organization was strengthened in a multitude of ways. However, in spite of COP 18 providing common ground for us to properly unite, thus speeding the inevitable, we are opposed to the climate negotiations: our credo is to say no to climate tourism (Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Doha, Warsaw, Paris etc.). How best to fight climate change would be to save those millions of dollars we are spending to organize these summits we know beforehand will not find come to any agreement, and instead invest these huge amounts of money to finance technology transfers, to invest in the Clean Development Mechanism and to fill the Green Climate Fund.
The world needs to know that we live in a delicate climate change-induced precariousness. The issue of the climate and the environment transcends any policy or ideology, in truth we are all in this together as citizens of the world. A climate negotiation version 19, 20, 21 should not be necessary; we in the AYCM aim to make them unnecessary by sharing our perspectives and adding Arab voices to the global outcry. Because a young Swede, Frenchman, or American can project the lives of his children and their children in his homeland, but we other countries as those in the MENA region cannot have this certainty, unless we decide to leave our home countries and be exiled in those countries that have the resources and technological capabilities to cope with an evil they caused and which they not necessarily will experience the consequences of. Therefore, we have assigned ourselves to be at the forefront of this struggle about our future. Our sense of commitment makes me confident that we will bring this world to seriously consider this issue and act consequently.
As we were expecting, the world observed us in Doha as an exotic group in the climate talks. Youth from other regions expected to meet gentrified, spoiled petrodollar youth. But despite our very limited experience, we were able to show people that we are more than a folkloric movement, with visions, missions and values. We expect one day to handle the issue and drive the planet to a safe future. Join, welcome, and help us.