The Global Citizens’ Assembly – a “qualitatively new approach to public engagement” that aims to “give everyone a seat at the global governance table”- burst onto the scene yesterday as part of the multilateral negotiating arena in the Green Zone at COP26 in Glasgow.
The first ever session brought five of the one hundred Core Assembly members together to introduce the proposals they have developed as part of the Global Assembly in the run up to the UN’s annual climate conference. It was led by Global Assembly team members Susan Nakyung Lee, Claire Mellier and Rich Wilson.
The members – from India, Germany, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China and Thailand – each selected the parts of the People’s Declaration for the Sustainable Future of Planet Earth, a document outlining the consensus-based proposals reached by the Core Assembly so far, which they felt to be most important.
“Due to increased temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns…crops are wasted…farmers are dying in our country every day,” explained Mulki Devi, a farmer from Bihari, India, who has never received a formal education.
“Voices of the most affected people and areas have to be given more space in climate decision-making,” agreed Guillaume Kasse from the DRC.
The members also recognised the need to “recognise different starting points and different responsibilities” while acknowledging the fundamental truth that “raising awareness is a stepping stone towards all action on climate change” and that ultimately, “all beings on Earth form an interconnected home”.
The Core Assembly has now spent 36 hours together and is set to observe COP26 before learning, discussing and deliberating for 32 more hours as an assembly, with the key findings set to be published in March 2022.
Assembly members and organisers were also joined by a series of high-profile guest speakers, including Vanessage Nakate, the climate activist and founder of Rise Up and Nicola Sturgeon the Scottish first minister, along with Laurence Tubiana, Natalie Samarasinghe, and Professor Bob Watson, former chair of the IPCC and IPBES.
“All of us are needed,” Ms. Nakate stated. “Leaders will keep delaying until our voices are loud enough to make them listen.” She went on to emphasise the fundamental truth that the climate and ecological crisis “is not just about weather patterns, not just about statistics, it’s about the people. Real people like me, real people like you.”
Professor Watson agreed, arguing that “the voices of the poor and marginalised need to be heard” and that it is a “legitimate right for all people to play a role in decision-making”. A total of 35 of the Core Assembly members do not identify as fully literate, and 50 percent are women.