For decades, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been involved in climate change advocacy and awareness raising, putting pressure on governments and big businesses to take action or face irreversible consequences of runaway global warming.
For the Global Climate Change Alliance + (GCCA+) European Union (EU) flagship initiative, deepening its relationship with CSOs is one of the key priorities.
Deepening partnerships with civil society organisations is also part of the new European Consensus on Development, which was signed in June 2017 at the European Development Days (EDD 2017), an annual event drawing thousands of policymakers and experts from around the world.
How best to do that and mutually benefit on a local, national and international level? That was the subject of a GCCA+ led debate held during the EDD 2017. the June 8 session at the Tour & Taxis conference hall in Brussels to hear from panel of government and civil society representatives.
Participants heard that the EU viewed civil society involvement as vital, and wanted to boost knowledge sharing to create stronger networks that will ultimately maximise impact.
Panellist Rosario Bento Pais of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) credited civil society with driving decision makers to go further on global warming than they otherwise would have.
“Much of what was achieved during all the negotiations on climate change was due to civil society,” she said.
But amid recent turmoil surrounding the Paris Agreement, the “importance of the role of civil society is more important than ever in pushing decision makers in keeping to their words,” she added, urging CSOs to expand and step up their coalition building efforts.
Guiding questions for the 75-minute debate included how CSOs should ensure the integration of highly vulnerable groups in climate and sustainable development policy.
“In my mind, people tend to be vulnerable because they are excluded and so if we want to reduce vulnerability then it’s about processes of inclusion,” said Marcus Oxley, executive director of the Global Network of Civil SocietyOrganisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR).
“In the climate movement, we have a saying: ‘To change everything, we need everyone,’” added Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness.
Her comments were echoed by Buh Wung Gaston, Coordinator of a Cameroon-based non-governmental/non-profit initiative Group call Geo-technology, Environmental Assessment and Disaster Risk Reduction (GEADIRR).
“Governments cannot do the work alone and that’s why we need to come together … We see ourselves very much as connectors.”
The debate will feed into future GCCA+ projects and is part of the initiative’s efforts to more closely involve CSOs in identifying needs and priorities.
“We’re trying to make sure that new and unseen needs are being reflected,” said Guido Corno, a GCCA+ climate change expert who moderated the event.
The GCCA+ was also part of a stand showcasing DG DEVCO’s environment and climate change initiatives. With an attention-grabbing graphic and interactive search and find game, it highlighted the five priorities (P’s) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the new European Consensus on Development — People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership and the contribution of DEVCO's initiatives to these development policies.
A mesmerising, multi-coloured kaleidoscope mural caught the attention of many visitors in the bustling EDD exhibition hall.
The goal? Find five hidden “P’s” in four different settings — a forest, a sea, a village and city — all represented by further colourful graphics. Participants could then browse through embedded texts and videos to learn more about the Earth-saving activities of those involved. Participants who completed the interactive game were rewarded with an eco-friendly bag.
Other DG DEVCO initiatives taking part in the stand included SWITCH to Green, B4Life, FLEGT, REDD+ and Greening EU Cooperation. All address environmental and development challenges.
“I really liked it — it was very interactive,” said Anne Schmidt of the Germany-based Inclusive Business Action Network. “I got a good impression of what the initiatives involved are doing.”
Listen to the debate: