Although it barely made a blip in world news, a conference of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was held in the Maldives approximately 10 days ago. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together representatives from a host of countries with similar economic, development, and environmental concerns in order to negotiate a shared stance on post-Kyoto (ie the upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Bali) commitments. An additional purpose was to link climate change to the fundamental human rights which it threatens, and to build a stronger case for GHG reduction on the part of major emitters.
My colleague and I attended this meeting in the humble capacity of ‘sole representatives of academia the world over’ to share a bit of research we are doing to help communities visualize both effect of climate change and response options. As an aside, we were thrilled to find our work well-received, if only because of a distinct lack of competition.
The meeting itself was a fascinating example of the kind of high-level negotiations that provide fodder for the fantasies of IR wonks and politics junkies, but that often lead to protracted and insoluble debates rarely engendering action. Although high hopes for Bali abounded, it appears that this crucial post-Kyoto negotiation may consist of little more than the now familiar finger-pointing interspersed with highly legitimate calls for action on the part of developing countries suffering the vast and pervasive effects of climate change.
It appears that linking climate change to human rights is a good idea in theory but also tends to shine a light on more contentious (to some) political human rights that developing and developed countries alike have yet to agree on. Although we have general consensus on the right to life, the rest of the list of fundamental human rights inevitably causes a stir when tossed into already tense multilateral negotiations smacking of post-colonialist sensitivities.
An additional layer of intrigue, of course, was added to this meeting of AOSIS for the simple reason that it was held in the Maldives – which some would argue has a less than perfect human rights record. If it is any consolation, relatively unbiased sources argue quite convincingly that the recent move towards democratization in that country is in fact authentic, and likely to lead to positive outcomes.
I feel fortunate to have attended the meeting prior to our Prime Minister’s shameful performance at last weeks Commonwealth Summit in Uganda, and watched with horror as we continued to squander our scarce political and environmental capital abroad.
Keep your eyes peeled for the results of the Bali meeting – more information can of course be found at the UNFCCC website.