Give people worst-hit by climate change a voice - Activists

Source(s)
Thomson Reuters Foundation, trust.org

By Maria Caspani

New York (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
- Communities hard hit by climate change impacts are finding ways to adapt on their own, but they need a larger voice in international decision making about how to deal with climate change, activists said a U.N. climate summit this week.

Speaking at a New York gathering of world leaders called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to spur action on climate threats, three young activists from Nepal, the Solomon Islands and Uganda said their communities were finding their own solutions to cope with dramatic new challenges posed by climate change.

"We are working on local solutions and resilience to mitigate the impact of climate change," said Sylvia Atugonza Kapello, the head of a civil society network in Karamoja, Uganda. "The challenge is that (we're) not part of the decision-making."

She said the most marginalised must be given a seat at the table or, "if it continues like this, solutions will always be artificial," with few connections to realities on the ground.

Lack of representation in politics generally and in negotiations toward a new global climate agreement in 2015 means that people who are losing their livelihoods to climate change are left without a clear voice - a problem when they are the ones testing out practical solutions, the activists said.

Alina Saba, a researcher and community organiser from rural Nepal, said that for the past five years communities in her region have lost crops to more frequent landslides but struggled to receive assistance because of their remote location.

With no outside help, people are "fighting back with their own very poor resources," Saba said.

Atugonza Kapello, of Uganda, said that "although communities are coping, this shouldn't be our responsibility. It should be our governments' and our leaders'".

Civil society groups have voiced their discontent at the outcome of the U.N. climate summit, saying that world leaders made too few commitments to effectively take action on climate change.

U.N. climate envoy Mary Robinson, who also spoke at the event, said that there were too few resources available to deal with climate change impacts at the local level, and called for greater involvement of women in negotiations and decision-making.

"If we took away barriers to women's leadership, we would solve the climate change problem a lot faster," said Robinson, a former president of Ireland.

"Women tend to be more practical," she added. "Women lead in a different way.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; editing by Laurie Goering)

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