Voices from the Global South at the COP21

Several of Development and Peace’s partners have been present at the COP21 in Paris to remind negotiators of those in the Global South who are living the impacts of climate change now. One of the key points that was negotiated at the climate conference is a fund to support the poorest and most vulnerable countries in adapting and mitigating climate change. This fund is meant to be formed of contributions from wealthy countries who have benefited the most from the economic model that has created climate change – their wealth coming from the very industries, such as the extractives, that contribute the most to carbon emissions, and whose impacts are being lived now by developing countries, especially by the poorest and most vulnerable groups. This green climate fund was one of the most contentious points of the negotiations, with wealthy nations begrudgingly taking responsibility for the damage they have done.

Development and Peace’s partners travelled from Brazil, Peru, Nigeria, the Philippines and Honduras to give voice to the threats faced by the communities they represent. It is a question of the very survival of their peple. While many followed the negotiations from inside Le Bourget, most were present to participate in the multiple social movement events happening on the fringes, placing greater faith in the capacity of people to mobilize and to show solidarity rather than in those behind closed doors negotiating.

Joseph Purugganan, co-ordinator of Development and Peace partner Focus on the Global South in the Philippines, was part of events held in the Climate Action Zone, where a wide range of issues were discussed such as how food sovereignty is a way to address climate change and women in Africa mobilizing against mining. Our partners ensured that even if the marginalized do not have a voice within the negotiations, their struggles would be brought to Paris and shared with others so future action can take place.

Here are Joseph’s thoughts on the negotiations.

By Dominique Godbout, Programs Officer, Humanitarian Assistance

Women are closely involved in determining the design priorities for shelters in the Rohingya refugee camps.

It has now been four years since the beginning of the massive influx of Rohingya refugees from Burma (Myanmar) into Bangladesh. Four years that Caritas Bangladesh, through its Emergency Response Program, has been working tirelessly to respond to the critical needs of the Rohingya women, girls, boys and men who live in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Since 2017, too, Development and Peace — Caritas Canada, with support from thousands of Canadians and Global Affairs Canada, has been helping Caritas Bangladesh provide dignified and safe shelters to families in congested and disaster-prone camps.

Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy drove our commitment to ensuring that the shelters meet the specific needs of those who spend the most time in them: women, adolescent girls and other vulnerable groups. This meant that shelters had to be made of durable materials; be well ventilated; and have safe cooking and bathing spaces, room partitions for increased privacy, and locks for safety.

Caritas Bangladesh’s gender-sensitive, community-led approach to shelter rehabilitation and construction has had meaningful impacts on the community, especially for women, girls and vulnerable groups. Female participants have gained the confidence to voice their needs and participate in making decisions about upgrades to their shelters. They have also become skilled, knowledgeable, and self-reliant with respect to shelter rehabilitation/construction. Their use of these new skills and capacities has also led to greater community cohesion and pride. Women also feel a greater sense of security and confidence in their shelters’ ability to withstand recurring extreme weather events. Caritas Bangladesh is helping Rohingya women develop shelter planning, construction and maintenance skills.

Caritas Bangladesh is helping Rohingya women develop shelter planning, construction and maintenance skills.

In the past year, fires, floods, cyclones and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused several setbacks in the delivery of the humanitarian response. This has had adverse impacts on the safety and well-being of the refugees, especially those from the most vulnerable households. These difficulties notwithstanding, Development and Peace remains committed to supporting Caritas Bangladesh’s sustained effort to secure the dignity of the Rohingya people and improve their prospects.