Ryan Haughton's Experience as a COP 25 Youth Delegate
Written by Ryan Haughton, UNA-Canada Service Corps delegate At 24 years old I was working for the United Nations in the largest city in Southeast Asia. Almost three years later, and I’m a member of the Canadian Delegation for one of, if not the, largest international conferences on climate change.
Let’s take a moment and let that sink in.
As an international development student, working for the UN and representing the interests of Canada on the world stage have always been two goals of mine. Thanks to UNA-Canada I’ve achieved both—I do have to admit this happened a lot earlier into my professional career than I ever would have imagined.
When I first moved to Indonesia I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t even graduated from school and I was supposed to be helping address some of the most pressing socioeconomic issues facing a country on the other side of the world. But over the course of my initial placement as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC), I dedicated myself to learning as much as possible about the organization, the country, and truly the people. That’s why after six months I couldn’t just pack up and leave. So I didn’t. I was able to find an opportunity that would allow me to stay and continue working on projects related to climate change adaptation and mitigation but now in a larger capacity. And although this role gave me many once in a lifetime opportunities, something that always evaded me was the chance to attend an international conference or meeting.
I know that sounds odd and as I sit here and write this I’m in total agreement with you. But having studied and worked in international development for so many years, there are certain global events like the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) that have the potential to alter and change the course of humanity. The latter reason is why attending COP 25 was such an important experience for me.
In an honor of Kate, our Inuk angel who made us debrief each day with peaks and valleys, I will summarize my experience in a similar fashion.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most about attending COP 25 was being able to see how it all works. You often read in the news what happens at the event or hear from the experiences of colleagues, but to be in attendance yourself is a different experience entirely. It was interesting to see so many different stakeholders with differing agendas (often competing agendas) all in their own way work towards agreed up on solutions for addressing climate change. I’ve worked in civil society and I’ve worked for governmental and international organizations but to be in one space where both are interacting on such a high level was very interesting watch.
Something unexpected that I also enjoyed was seeing some of the projects that I worked on as a JPC and consultant, being presented at the Indonesian Pavilion. For many people when they leave an organization they are not given the opportunity to see the results of the projects they previously worked on. I was very fortunate to not only have this opportunity but to know that the work I did not only mattered but was worth championing at a global level.
When I first arrived at COP 25 I expected to participate in more events related to technology transfers, however, as a result of the large presence of the global indigenous people community I found myself attending more events with their interests as the focus. Being a visible minority myself I do find a sense of fraternity among other groups fighting for their voices to be heard, and being Canadian I know the importance and value of listening to indigenous communities. It’s because of this that one of my biggest highlights would have to be the inclusion of indigenous rights in article 6 of the Paris agreement.
There were a lot of Indigenous stakeholders from around the world who were lobbying different governments for the inclusion of indigenous rights in the article so they could protect themselves and their land. Being able to attend the Canadian Delegation meetings for the entire week allowed me to see firsthand the way indigenous stakeholders place pressure on the Government of Canada. I was also able to see how the Government in turn tries to balance these with other competing interests. I was happy to see that by the end of the week Canada began pushing for the inclusion of indigenous rights and was getting support from other countries as well. It was also just really great being in the same rooms as the chief negotiators and hearing them speak on behalf of Canada.
Lastly, being able to spend the week learning from the five other UNAC Delegation members would definitely have to be a peak. We all came in as strangers with different interests and backgrounds and it was a really great opportunity to hear what is of importance to everyone and how it relates with climate change.
If I had it my way there are some things that I would change, because it is a global event that is a bit of performative in terms of how state actors interact with one another or other stakeholders; I would love it if we could just get everyone in one big room, forgo niceties and geopolitics and have a truly open and honest discussion about climate change and how best to address it.
In the future I would also hope that the event was completely paperless. I know it’s difficult because there are so many moving parts, people involved, and important information to get out in a short amount of time. I just think the messaging of COP would be all the more powerful if they could say they are completely paperless. I also wish that all stakeholders were under one roof. Because of the size of the event and limited space, all groups weren’t able to be under the roof of the main hall, which proved to be a bit limiting.
Overall I would have to say I had a phenomenal experience attending COP 25. If I could go every year, I definitely would and if you’re given the opportunity to attend I would highly recommend it. For me in many ways I look at attending COP 25 as bringing my UNAC internship experience full circle. There is something to be said about transitioning from an internship to a consulting position, culminating in my participation in COP 25. I’m looking forward to taking this experience and the relationships I’ve built and applying them as I move on and take part in other opportunities.