The sun hasn’t shined yet during the 8 days that I have been in Bonn, at least not as far as I am aware although it is fair to say that in the Conference complex it is hard to know what is going on outside. At least the journey to and from my Airbnb has always been in thick cloud and, in BBC weather forecast terminology, either in mizzle, drizzle or spits and spots of rain. I’m not entirely sure if there is any difference between any of them!
Yesterday the journey was to an Evangelical Church which had been hired for the occasion by all those organisations taking part in a 4 hour presentation and workshop session. All the organisations that we are linked to, or, more accurately, merged with at this COP spoke and there was a keynote from Joachim Schemel from the German Federal Foreign Office.
Disappointingly very few people turned up, the venue being away from the conference centre, despite being widely advertised. After a short lunch break Kosha Joubert, CEO of GEN, organised us into groups to discuss how we would engage our communities so that everyone was on board. All about process rather than product!
Back to the Bonn Zone for the rest of the afternoon and early evening where to my surprise, I found a side event in the Morocco Pavilion entitled “The Effects of Climate Change on Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage related to Handicraft in Morocco”. I had to go for I had never seen a title so closely allied to our own concerns at a previous COP.
It was jointly hosted by the Artisans of Morocco and UNESCO, where I met 2 ‘old’ friends from previous COPs from UNESCO. It was slightly unfortunate that outside the pavilion a German band, 200 strong, were celebrating the German Carnival, as I learnt from a German who was distributing free beer to the huge assembled crowd. The carnival starts at 11 am on 11/11 each year. As a British person I couldn’t help but notice the irony of the situation.
Another downside was that the side event was in French (too fast and too complex for my understanding) and the translator for the most part did not have her microphone switched on! The event was to launch a report on the topic and it was explained that owing to extreme droughts there was a lack of raw materials, rattan, palm and natural dyes for such things as basketry, mats, wall and ceiling wood carvings, marquetry etc. The effect was that these products had become too expensive and were being replaced by cheaper, low quality alternatives or the trade was dying out and people were losing their roots. It was therefore important “to safeguard the know-how”. The report certainly looked as though it might contain some valuable tips for some of INTO’s member organisations so I asked if there would be an English translation and, receiving a positive response, left my card!
For the first time in the 7 COPs that I have attended, the middle Sunday has been a work day. Normally everything is closed down and one is able to have a well-earned day off. Not so in Bonn –very Germanic I thought! So on Sunday I attended a side event in the Fiji Pavilion about Loss and Damage. This is the mechanism agreed upon at COP 19 in Warsaw (known better as the Warsaw International mechanism (WIM)). But 4 years later it has not yet mobilised much needed finance and action on the ground to address loss and damage. I was late arriving for the event and the first slide I saw had the heading below which nearly made me walk out
However it got better after that. One of the speakers referred to the non-economic losses (in our terms, losses of intangible cultural heritage) stating that they were difficult to quantify and it needed a pragmatic approach. At the end I explained who I represented and asked what was meant by a pragmatic approach whereupon there was a flurry of activity and an exchange of a number of cards; some time later I was sent links to various documents and books on the subject and links to various documents.
Our own side event was held later that day in the same pavilion with Siteri Tikoca from Nature Fiji, Andrew Potts from ICOMOS, Keith Jones and me as the speakers. Not a great turnout once again and at the start a single person. It is the first time I have opened proceedings by saying ‘Lady’ rather than ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’!! The audience did grow as the proceedings continued but not by much.
After that it was time to drown our sorrows and where better to do so than in the UK pavilion, nearly opposite, where there was a side event on sustainable cities in Scotland followed by a whisky tasting!
Things will get better on Monday when the crowds swell in expectation of the Heads of Governments’ arrival although we had a fleeting glimpse of Arnold Schwarzenegger surrounded by a posse of about 50 cameramen passing by our stand at speed! No time to get the camera out however.
Oliver Maurice 13 Nov 2017