IFMSA@COP17: What have we achieved in the COP frenzy?

Dear IFMSA friends!

We’re writing to you at the close of the 17th Conference of the Parties under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17). Negotiations have been going for a full two weeks (with the high-level segment running two days overtime!) But, at 5:16am, on Sunday morning we finally have a deal. In our last post, we’ll summarise our work in Durban and the way forward to COP18 in Doha and the Earth Summit in Rio.

At COP, the IFMSA had a number of key objectives, and we can proudly say that we achieved all of these with overwhelming success!

Incorporate Health in to the UN Text on Climate Change
Following from our phenomenal success in Cancun (COP16), where the IFMSA was instrumental in writing over 1/3rd of the UN text on Education, Training and Public Awareness, we had a lot to live up to.
This year, the delegation focused on: seeing the inclusion of health expertise in many of the expert working groups under the convention; taking appropriate steps to defend water security and sanitation for the world’s Least Developed Nations; recognising Health as a key justification for climate action; and galvanising countries together around human health and development.
Negotiations surrounding water security and its cross-sectoral integration went very well. Despite resistance from a few nations who were wary of the additional costs to be incurred, we were able to use our policy statements to take a strong stance alongside the rest of world youth. The result is a strong technical and surveillance body to watch over this issue and report back to the COP as necessary.
By supporting the positions of a number of Majority World Nations, and the World Health Organisation, we were able to strongly advocate for (and draft!!!!) a paragraph on The Protection and Promotion of Public Health, in the “Social and Economic Impacts” section of the new text.
This was aided by a clever idea which helped to bring together the Africa Group, ALBA and AOSIS on a common ideal, health. Half way through the conference, every country gives a ‘National Statement’, which outlines their position in the negotiations and how they expected to proceed forward. The idea was simple, the IFMSA would work to get as many countries as possible making specific mention to the human cost of climate change and the resulting urgency of the negotiations. This was received phenomenally well, with Ethiopia (on behalf of all African countries) making specific mention to just that, as well as similar statements from countless other countries. How did we do it?!? We printed fliers, small cards, and sent emails with a single sentence, encouraging all nations who were willing to stand together on this issue. With systematic advocacy from a team where most had all received climate change and advocacy training through the IFMSA, this was immensely effective. The result – a strong platform for health in the upcoming intersessionals.

Bringing Together the International Health Community
Having worked tirelessly to register other health NGOs, ensure all were prepared for COP, and even contributing to the first ever Climate-Health summit with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), we can now say that the health community has finally arrived at COP.
Members of the delegation were present as speakers in over ten side events and constantly networking through our stall (strategically situated next to the WHO). In addition to this, the IFMSA conducted a brief (invited) publicity stunt in a press conference, in which students dressed up in doctors coats with stethoscopes and gathered around a sick earth. They were taking its temperature, showing that it was coming dangerously close to 2 degrees of global aggregate warming. This was received remarkably well by conference participants, and gained us a lot of allies in the coming days.
Over the past 12 months, the IFMSA has been leading a network of Health NGOs interested in Climate Change with the technical support of the WHO. In Durban, this culminated in a Climate-Health summit (organised by HCWH), where over 250 participants attended a full day of incredibly engaging lectures and panels from the likes of Kumi Naidoo (Executive Director of Greenpeace), the South African Minister for Health, and Diarmid Cambell-Lendrum ( Head of the WHO Climate Change and Health Unit). One day later, a meeting of the heads of each of the involved organisations was called, and a plan for the future was agreed. The group will re-convene in March 2012 to discuss preparations for the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June of next year.

It’s been a roller-coaster of a 6 months, preparing for this historic conference, and ensuring that our delegation could engage and hit the ground running (and believe us, we did!). At the close of COP, there was an agreement among IFMSA delegates to continue on ‘Immune to fatigue’.
We’ll be following up on our relationships with key organisations like HEAL, HCWH and the WHO, and contributing strongly to the emerging health NGO network. We’ll also be working hard to ensure that a constant stream of training on Climate Change, Health and Advocacy is achieved in the coming 6 months.
We look to the UNCSD Intersessional in 1 week, the UNFCCC Intersessional in March 2012, the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012, and COP18 in December 2012 as key dates for engagement, and will be calling for delegations to these conferences shortly!
In closing, a huge congratulations to the IFMSA COP17 Team on an amazing effort and our most successful COP ever!

Nick and the IFMSA COP17 Team

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