Final thoughts: Cancun and Many Strong Voices

17 Dec 2010

The analyses of what happened in Mexico continue to roll in so this is a good time to take a look at what happened at COP 16 and what it means to Many Strong Voices. I’ve listed a couple of interesting articles at the end of this entry on the big picture.

Once again, the COP was an opportunity for MSV to spread the word on climate change and its effects on Small Island Developing States and raise awareness about the rapid changes happening in these regions. MSV partners were involved in a number of side events, high-level events and developing language for the final agreement. Highlights include:

  • Getting human rights language into the approved text. As Alyssa Johl reported earlier on the MSV listserv, “From a human rights perspective, the LCA document contains some very strong language.”  

The preamble contains a reference to a United Nations Human Rights Council on resolution on “human rights and climate change, which recognizes that the adverse effects of climate change have a range of direct and indirect implications for the effective enjoyment of human rights and that the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely by those segments of the population that are already vulnerable owing to geography, gender, age, indigenous or minority status and disability."

And the shared vision section mentions the need to respect human rights: "Emphasizes that Parties should, in all climate change-related actions, fully respect human rights;"

While there is much work to be done, congratulations go to Alyssa and the Climate Change Human Rights Working Group which has worked for over a year to get this kind of language into the climate change agreement. It is an important step towards securing the rights of people in vulnerable regions like the Arctic and Small Island Developing States.

The outcomes of LCA and KP can be found by following the links. 


  • MSV held a successful side event on Food Security and Human Rights in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States, which was reported in the blog. For those who haven’t been reading on a daily basis, speakers include Patricia Cochran, head of the Alaska Native Science Commission, Ronny Jumeau, Seychelles Ambassador to the United Nations, Kirt Ejesaik, Vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council – Canada, and Margreet Wewerinke, a member of the Climate Change Human Rights Working Group. There was a lot of internet pick up of the event and it appeared in the Los Angeles Times as part of a larger story about Ronny Jumeau and his work at the COP.
  • Portraits of Resilience was once again featured on the UNEP Climate Change website during the COP and photos and a song written by the students at the Suva Christian Community High School in Fiji also appeared on the UN Climate Wall, an interactive display supported by HP. We hope to have further discussions with HP about using other Portraits material, much in the same way that Portraits has been integrated into a number of Arctic sites on Google Earth.
  • MSV partners the Inuit Circumpolar Council, CICERO and GRID-Arendal shared a display booth at the Cancunmesse which was a good place for meeting people, discussing projects and talking about the common issues faced by the Arctic and SIDS.
  • The MSV display was right across from the UNFCCC’s closed circuit Climate Change TV studio. MSV helped arrange interviews for a number of partners, including Kirt Ejesiak. All interviews are archived on the web and last year CCTV has over four million hits. (Unfortunately, we missed the interview with Darryl Hannah.)
  • MSV work planning continued at the COP with discussions about new communications partnerships through the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA) on climate change and biodiversity.
  • Planning meetings were also held to further develop a MSV Forced Migration and Relocation project and to follow up on an Advisory Committee decision to focus on short-term climate forcers such as black carbon in the Arctic and SIDS. More information will follow on these activities in the New Year.
  • During the COP, information on MSV appeared on SIDS-l, a new service by IISD Reporting Services focusing on “SIDS policy and practice”.
  • Meetings were held with a number of organizations and individuals interested in what MSV is doing. These have produced a long list of follow up activities for the New Year.


A major gap in activities this year was our inability to coordinate daily meetings and briefing sessions. This was a function of the small number of MSV partners in Cancun, people’s schedules and the distance that one needed to travel between venues. The latter meant that no one location was ideal since you could always count on some people would be elsewhere. We will look again at how to organize planning and/or briefing sessions that don’t interfere with schedules. The idea of holding a meeting prior to COP 17 in Durban has been raised, but there are a number of pre-COP sessions already, including ones held by the Indigenous Peoples Caucus and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS). It might be more efficient to circulate information coming out of other meetings rather than trying to stage our own, but we’ll look at this again early next year. Suggestions and ideas are always welcome.

The Portraits of Resilience exhibition existed only in the virtual world because the Mexican customs authorities held the shipment of photographic panels in a warehouse, where they continue to languish as this is written. Next time, we will print paper posters and carry them on the plane rather than shipping them.

One of the decisions at the recent MSV Advisory Committee meeting was to look at our activities at the COP and assess their effectiveness. There was a consensus that the COP shouldn’t be our only focus, that we should seek other opportunities and events to spread the message and stories of the people in the SIDS and Arctic. That said the COP provided a useful opportunity to not only push MSV messages but to build links with other like-minded organizations.

In the New Year we will be assembling a list of possible meetings and events at which an MSV presence would be desirable and useful. 

Social media played a major role in MSV communications at this COP with information circulating on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. We’d be interested in hearing your reaction to all this information – was it useful? Did you read the blogs? Are you following on Twitter? Have you found the Facebook page and is the information useful? Any other ideas about how to more effectively spread the word on MSV, not just at the COP but in general? Tweeting, blogging, etc. was a bit of an experiment. It provided a good opportunity to organize thoughts and information in a (potentially) coordinated manner, but it’s hard to gauge what its effect was. If you have any comments or thoughts on communications, please feel free to leave a comment below this post. 


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