As I sit in the Bella Center taking a sip of my $5 cup of coffee I can't help but to think to myself of how difficult it must be for a poor but impassioned person to afford a trip to one of the most expensive parts of the world. When 1.1 billion humans live on $1 a day (many of whom are the people already being affected by climate change) how is it that the most important climate conference to date is being held in a region financially off limits to so many? How can we begin to bridge the gap of representation between the wealthy and the poor?
I recently took a seat in the bustling “Climate Kitchen” area of the conference center for a talk with Suzanne Maas, a Dutch representative with Project Survival NL, in order to learn about one project that is working towards fixing this gap in representation. Suzanne became concerned with the U.N climate conferences last year in Poznan, Poland (where COP 14 was held), where she saw African delegations, many composed of only two or three people, next to large delegations from the developed world, sometimes of fifty people or more.
Suzanne is helping manage a pilot program funded by the Dutch environmental ministry that funds and provides visas, plane tickets, accommodation, and daily reimbursement, to nine African youth so they can come to Copenhagen and be a part of their nation's delegations.
“We looked to see which countries had the least people in their delegations, and those were the countries we targeted.” Said Suzanne.
Suzanne sees the Project Survival initiative as symbolic of the change that needs to happen at the U.N conferences. Nine youth may seem like a small number, but the project stands for the belief that unequal representation isn't just an unfortunate truth but that it is an unforgivable violation of human rights, and leads to unfair policy.
Photo: Project Survival NL. Suzanne Maas fourth in from right with Dutch collegues and youth from Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, and Gambia.