Transparency and Access for Civil Society and Youth

Transparency and Access for Civil Society and Youth

In the morning on Wednesday, December 9, I was able to attend the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Briefing for Observer Organizations. It was an hour-long session meant to engage the civil society and other constituencies observing the negotiations, provide answers to our questions, and act as a bridge between us and the high-level officials.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres was joined by Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who is serving during COP21 as the President’s Special Envoy to Observers. Pulgar-Vidal previously served as the President of COP20 in Peru as that county’s Minister of State for Environment. Additionally, a youth representative moderated the lengthy Q&A session.

There are nine constituency groups represented within the observer delegations at COP21, many with their very own fun acronym:

  1. Business and Industry Non-Governmental Organizations (BINGO)
  2. Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGO)
  3. Farmers
  4. Indigenous People’s Organizations (IPO)
  5. Local Government and Municipal Authorities (LGMA)
  6. Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organizations (RINGO)
  7. Trade Unions Non-Governmental Organizations (TUNGO)
  8. Women and Gender
  9. Youth Non-Governmental Organizations (YOUNGO)

The members of the Emory delegation, as you could probably guess, are proud RINGOs.


UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal address observers 

Multiple observer delegates from each constituency group were given the chance to ask questions on content or procedures and air their concerns about the COP process. Delegates asked content questions regarding cooperative mechanisms, differentiation, and food security. The only answer Figueres could give to these were to wait for the latest draft of the text, due to be released later that day at 1:00pm. Many delegates also had procedural questions which included a plea to be able to speak in the Comite de Paris plenary sessions and to bring more young people into active roles in the negotiations.

All of these questions were addressed as Figueres and Pulgar-Vidal shared more information about the negotiation process and their role in promoting transparency and helping observers to gain access. Figueres explained that outside of the full-body plenary meetings, which now only occur at Comite de Paris update sessions, delegates debate in small bilateral meetings and medium sized meetings. Due to the sheer amount of material to cover before Friday and the overlap of many of these meetings, most country delegations are unaware of every conversation being had at the Le Bourget site. Thus, the Comite de Paris updates are of extreme importance not only to those of us observing and kept away from these small meetings, but to the negotiators themselves who cannot be two or three places at once. Figueres noted that the sheer amount of consultations occurring at this stage is an indicator of progress, that the governments are doing well and are determined to come to a deal.

Pulgar-Vidal’s role is especially important to observer delegates as he acts as our advocate in front of the plenary, or Comite de Paris at this stage, since we at this time cannot speak for ourselves in these meetings. In fact, he was tasked with repeating everything we had to say to the COP President regarding procedures and out general concerns with the text to the country delegates during the Comite de Paris session.

These are not small actions. The role of observers in the COP has grown over the years and COP21 has allowed unprecedented access to us. However, we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t continue to push for more.


Executive Secretary Figueres ended the meeting on a positive note, reminding us that despite all of the contentious text remaining, a deal was nevertheless in the works. Just think, we were making a fuss about how ambitious the deal would be- we long ago stopped asking is a deal would be made at all.


As I have always thought, the deal we make in Paris will not be perfect, but I believe these latest updates and the improvements to the process in general are promising and indicate that a comprehensive deal will be made.

The deadline is Friday at 6pm and it would not surprise me if that deadline was extended, Nevertheless, I’m excited to see the deal that emerges sometime in the near future.


Mae Bowen 12/9/2015


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