An interview with the Minister with responsibility for climate change in Saint Lucia on youth,women and what happens after COP. (part 1)


Photo Credit: Dr. James Fletcher (04/12/2015)

Date: 5th December 2015        Location: Wider Caribbean Pavilion


Snaliah Mahal: How are the negotiations going?

Dr. James Fletcher: The negotiations are not going as well as I am. They are going slowly. We have a draft text in front of us which seems to have very many brackets and options still in it. So it means there will be quite a bit of work for Ministers to do over the next few days.

Snaliah Mahal: Which means sleepless nights for you…

Dr. James Fletcher: Which means sleepless nights for all of us. That’s what the COP is all about.

Snaliah Mahal: What is your opinion on youth participation at conferences such as these and how from your experience at various COPs, (in terms of Saint Lucia) has been the overall youth participation?

Dr. James Fletcher: We’ve had young people on our delegation before but the issue with the COP and I think it is something that is not very well appreciated by many people is that the COP is  culmination of negotiations that start long before the COP itself. So if you are coming to the COP for the first time, as your initiation into the climate change negotiations, you may probably be lost at sea because there will be first of all discussions you’ll not be party to that took place before, that took us to this particular point and to get the proper context and to understand the history but it is almost like a long-running soap opera; because there are decisions that build up on decisions that build up on things that were done before and it’s not like you start from scratch every single time.

I guess for youth to be really integrally involved in the COP process we would have to have them involved in the negotiations themselves-the negotiations that took place this year in Bonn, in Geneva where texts were being discussed, where issues were being formulated. If you really wanted to have proper youth participation, it should have started back then.

It is not to say that youth participation in the COP itself is not useful, it is useful because one: you get the opportunity to express your views, an opportunity to network, you get the opportunity through the Parties to the Convention (they are the only ones who negotiate, not the Observers). You get the opportunity to try to influence texts. If you see texts you, you can say this is deficient, you should try to have something in there that speaks to  youth or speaks to an issue that is dear to the hearts of young people. But really it would be better if we had young people on our delegation from the very beginning so that you can ensure that the text is youth friendly and even if we don’t have young people on our delegation, that the text can be shared with you so that you can be aware of what’s going on and within your own groups you could have some comment on how we can shape it so that it is more youth friendly.

Snaliah Mahal: Do think that there is some value in having mock COPs?

Dr. James Fletcher: The COP is bad enough. I don’t think you ever want to mock a COP.

Snaliah Mahal: At least some kind…There is the mock UN Model so…

Dr. James Fletcher: The UN is a tame creature compared to the COP.

Snaliah Mahal: The COP is a beast by itself?

Dr. James Fletcher: Yes. The COP is a beast by itself. The COP has a dynamism that I don’t think anybody can appreciate unless they come here. Just the sheer magnitude of this and the number of people who are here and you see sometimes people standing around and you wonder whether they’re associated at all with any of the negotiations and they are. There are people who are providing support. There are people who are standing by just so that they can review a particular piece of text and see whether it makes sense, whether it violates some principles that they have.

It is kind of difficult to simulate a COP but I think what needs to happen is…if we can put some mechanisms at home for some level of consultation so that young people, NGOs, others are apprised of the situation as it evolves and can make some comment and make some contribution so that you can input into the process before it gets to the point of a COP decision at a particular COP or in this case a climate change agreement.

Snaliah Mahal: It is said globally that women make up the most vulnerable sector. In the Caribbean, do you see women at the same level of vulnerability as women in Asia for example who have historically been disadvantaged?

Dr. James Fletcher: I wouldn’t say the levels of vulnerability of women in the Caribbean are the same with women in Africa or women in Asia, clearly not but that does not mean that women are not particularly vulnerable and more vulnerable than men. Remember that the vulnerability of women is at two levels- one at the individual level but also at the family level. And extreme weather events affect individuals, they affect families and the woman is always the one or usually the one who has to take care of the family. Any level of dislocation, the woman usually bears the disproportionate share of that burden. For that reason alone, you would say that women have greater levels of vulnerability than men where extreme weather events, where climate change is concerned.

There must be some sensitivity for us in the Caribbean, even if we don’t have the same levels of disempowerment of women in our region that we have in some of other regions. We to be sensitive to the fact that there must be gender sensitivity in the things that we do and the measures that we take in addressing climate change.

 (to be continued…)

© Snaliah Mahal


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