From Poland to Liberia in 3 months: negotiating international agreements for a different country
Two months after the COP27 climate conference ended, it is already hard for me to recall all the unexpected events and crazy coincidences that happened in my life just because of COP. But if I think a bit deeper, my memory takes me right to some sunny days of August 2022 - when it all started…
It was then when I randomly emailed a number of developing countries. “Wouldn’t you like some support for your negotiating team at the COP27?”, the email was titled. “I would like to offer you my support and join your COP27 delegation as a negotiator.”, I wrote in it. I attached my CV and a few catchy sentences, and sent the emails expecting nothing. The intention in my mind was to run an experiment, to try and gain some new experience, to try and help some struggling delegations make their voices heard louder and clearer in the complicated and highly political climate discussion.
What actually happened later exceeded all my expectations. Responses started coming, I heard back from people on the opposite ends of the globe who were positive about me joining their teams. Finally, I became a climate negotiator for Liberia. Not for my country, Poland, not for the European Union. I did so at the age of 20, making my dreams become a reality.
It sounds so simple, but it wasn’t. While the process itself was quite simple in the end, the hardest step was the first one - to believe I can and to take the courage…
The benefits and the challenges
During the COP I negotiated the topic of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE). If you have been reading my previous posts, you can surely tell that this issue is both my area of expertise and even a little obsession of mine, to a certain extent. I already knew the topic and the text we were discussing in and out, I was very very prepared and very very ready to present my arguments. So, I could easily say that the substance of the negotiations was probably the easiest part for me.
What became more difficult were some dynamics that I couldn’t have foreseen. First, I had to work in a team. In a team that was new and different from my by all means: in terms of culture, understanding of the world, personality, viewpoint… Second, I needed to understand that my role had changed and it was crucial for me to learn the new role. I was no longer a youth activist who aims to attract attention, advocate for general idealistic ideas, and complain about the outcomes of the conference later. I was now a negotiator - I was part of the process, I was responsible for these outcomes. I had to stay highly focused and close to the heart of the discussion, I had to react quickly, I had to work in a strategic manner, identifying all the little words that could determine a spectacular victory or a dramatic failure for the country I was representing.
Yes. I was representing a country. This country was not the one where I was born.
This brought a whole new perspective and a whole new range of challenges. I needed to try and learn to think as if I was not even only a girl from Liberia, but a girl who unexpectedly became a Liberian government official and was representing the interests of the whole nation… And at the same time, I was a Conctact Point of the ACE Working Group within the Youth Constituency and I made a promise to myself that I would do anything possible to properly represent the young generation and the civil society. And on top of all of that, the whole negotiating process was so complicated and demanding, as it required focus all the time - during the long hours of meetings every day, during informal discussions, when working on the numerous new versions of the ACE Action Plan, and when planning the strategy for the next days and hours.
Was it all worth it though?
The short answer will definitely be: yes, it was. I had the luck of meeting very good and supportive people in my delegation who held the same principles as me, and I had the luck of doing something that I loved. I spoke many times and I was listened to, and what I said was respected. I made text proposals, I saw my suggestions on the screen in the negotiating room, and I still see them in a decision that was now adopted and is now an act of international law. I defended the interests of Liberia, while also representing the youth and civil society perspective and ensuring it was meaningfully included whenever possible. I trusted someone and was trusted back.
Some advice to you and the world
My dear reader… So you went through the whole story of how I became a climate negotiator for Liberia as a Polish, 20-year-old kid… And now you might be wondering: “what does it all have to do with me?” So I wanted to address you with the main message that comes out of this story: keep fighting for your dreams and never give up. Start with a decision. Then search for information, never stop searching, and always be prepared. Talk to people… If you don’t find the right person, ask that wrong person to connect you with the right one. Keep trying until you get there. Work with dialogue, work with understanding and compassion.
And finally… reach out to me! I’m happy to answer all your questions. Just navigate right to the “contact” section of this page and drop me a message! And don’t forget to subscribe :)
My dear world… The political leaders, the experts, those hopeful and those frustrated, those full of creative energy and those skeptical… What is my message to you?
I say: listen to the new generations and give them a louder, clearer voice. Most importantly, make them feel important and needed. We are not satisfied with just a bunch of pictures. We want to be involved and we want to be provided with spaces where we can learn. Learn not only in theory, but also in practice.
Dear world, education is an important topic! So is training, public participation, public access to information, awareness raising, and international cooperation. So is any topic on our agenda, because all of them have been placed there for a reason. And so are even some of those that have not made it to the agenda, as they keep being silenced and ignored. Can’t we change the UNFCCC process if we see it isn’t working? Can’t we do the same even with the systems and hierarchies controlling our world?
Well, I don’t know that. But I believe we can try. The first step is the hardest, but it’s also the one that makes things possible…
See you soon in some next articles, have a happy New Year, and expect completely new content over here!