Invisible heroes

Published August 28, 2023
The writer is chief executive of Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.
The writer is chief executive of Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.

IN a world where recognition often gravitates towards the apex of power, the unsung champions of success remain hidden in plain sight. These dedicated individuals wield their skills as the unseen cogs in the machinery of achievement, always first in the line of confronting challenges and last in receiving credit. While headlines chronicle the triumphs of a few, it is the quiet dedication of the many that propels victory and makes success possible.

Mountain climbing serves as a perfect analogy for talking about people who lead from the back to make a summit possible.

An expedition starts with many people, including porters and guides, but as it advances, the support circle narrows and centres around persons with specific skillsets needed for advancement. On reaching the summit, the triumphant mountaineer is hailed for his achievement, but little mention is made of the names without whom the win would not have been possible.

The climate journey of Pakistan is replete with stories of contributions made by people who have worked silently from behind the scenes to make milestone moments possible, but who are not adequately recognised.

Climate negotiations provide a multilateral platform where countries get the opportunity to demonstrate leadership capacity for pitching creative ideas, lobby for agendas and galvanise support for agreement by consensus.

The climate journey is not impossible to navigate.

Seeing only through the narrow lens of Nationally Determined Contributions takes away from the larger purpose of convenings at multilateral spaces. This is a platform for debate, discussion, sharing perspectives and steering the process forward.

This space was used effectively by Pakistan’s Foreign Office in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio to create a niche role for itself by drafting the language used in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Over the years, somehow the country ceded this space, making its participation a token presence with no meaningful contribution in negotiations.

COP27 marked a turning point, where a strategic plan to combine political frontloading supported by technical interventions created the perfect mix that made Loss and Damage possible. The powerful duo of former minister Sherry Rehman and Ambassador Nabeel Munir was supported by a variety of sub-set groups who worked tirelessly to make the landmark L&D outcome possible.

While the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination takes the lead at COP meetings, Pakistani diplomats play a pivotal role at the negotiations. Capitalising on the G77 plus China presidency, Pakistan reclaimed lost space at COP27 with its able leadership and technical backstopping.

Over the years, for a variety of reasons, we have fallen victim to the malaise of maligning the country and giving disproportionate space to prophets of doom. There is a mounting tendency to see everything through the lens of negativity, and negligence in shining light on achievements. This constant self-flagellation takes a toll on individual morale and dissipates the energy needed for promoting excellence in work.

The climate journey is difficult but not impossible to navigate. Despair, gloom, complaints and accusations are not going to fix the problem, and will certainly take away from our resolve to find solutions.

Moving forward will require team work, a well-thought-out strategy that covers all the important bases, and actors to work in unison.

The appointment of Ambassador Munir as chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation should be seen as a recognition of his skills and used for strategic planning. SBI work has been at the heart of implementation issues under the convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agree­m­ent. Taking a lead from this achievement, the Foreign Office should use it to promote excellence and formalise the structure of its negotiating strategy by building a core team for steering the agenda.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination is ideally positioned to improve coordinated actions and convenings among stakeholders. The services of civil society champions like Kashmala Kakakhel, who routinely provides advice on climate finance, and other actors should be used for strengthening strategic partnerships.

Pakistan has political commitment, able negotiators, a vibrant civil society and a cohort of experts, but lacks coordination. This communication gap creates misunderstandings and misplaced expectations.

It is time for Pakistan to build a team to carry the climate agenda for landing points. There are a variety of groups, each skilled in their craft, who can serve as critical parts of the whole under an umbrella strategy that covers negotiations at COP and actions at home.

The writer is chief executive of Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.
aisha@csccc.org.pk

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2023

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