Bringing grassroots voices to the center stage of climate change dialogue

There is a need for a global solution to the challenge of climate change and it is imperative to include South Asian grassroots voices in the climate change dialogue, says the ‘Position Document’ of OneWorld South Asia.

“The earth provides for every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed.” Reminding an audience of the famous dictum by Mahatma Gandhi, Shri Natwar Thakkar, a veteran Gandhian, questioned the development paradigm being so mindlessly pursued by the world today.

Shri Thakkar, founder of Nagaland Gandhi Ashram, was speaking as Chief Guest at OneWorld South Asia’s Seventh Annual Regional Meeting on “Climate Justice for the Realisation of MDGs”, which was held on 8-9 February, 2008 at InterContinental, Nehru Place, New Delhi, India.

Even as he felt that mankind has chosen a path which has ultimately led it to the doorstep of extinction, Shri Thakkar was also optimistic: “There is still a possibility…the entire value system has to be revolutionised. The craze for consumerism and emphasis on materialism has to be replaced by a more rational, more sensible and spiritually oriented lifestyle.”

Ambassador Walter Fust, Director General, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Chair, Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) graced the event as Guest of Honour.

Mr Walter Fust in his speech said: “I firmly believe that climate change is the defining human development issue of the 21st century.” He also expressed his hope that the two day conference would lead to a common vision on climate justice and the inclusion of southern voices to help realise the Millennium Development Goals.

In a special video message, Nobel laureate Dr R.K. Pachauri, Director-General, The Energy and Resources Institute and Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said: “Global community as a whole has to show a sense of responsibility, sense of fairness, equity and exercise of ethics because the poorest of the poor have done nothing to bring this problem on themselves.”

“I am not saying that South Asia has to wait for the rest of the world to provide that help. We ourselves, among ourselves can do a lot and I think it is time for us to join hands across political divisions, across boundary lines and to see how we can articulate these problems in a proper perspective and then come up with solutions,” he said.

Mr Minar Pimple of UN Millennium Campaign, Asia, Dr Tara de Mel of Worldview Sri Lanka, Dr Wasim Zaman, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), South and West Asia, Dr Ali Taqueer Sheikh, LEAD Pakistan, Mr Rakesh Khanna, TARAenviro and Mr S. Padmanaban, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), SAR opened the debate by reflecting their views on the theme: Southern Dilemma and the Linkages between Inclusive Economic Growth, Poverty Eradication and Climate Change.

Over two days, about 175 expert panelists and participants from South Asia and beyond intensely debated several dimensions of the issue in six parallel sessions. Discussions ranged from the impact of climate change on food security and livelihood resources to mitigation and adaptation strategies to establishing inter-sectoral linkages.

Strategies to amplify the voices of “voiceless” sections constituting the poor and marginalised, the role of ICTs and emerging media in addressing climate change challenges, and possible collaborations and partnerships for development and equitable climate change mitigation policies and initiatives were also discussed in detail.

The meeting concluded with the adoption of a “Position Document” that reaffirmed climate change was a global phenomenon, the current and future impacts of which would be faced by all populations, the developed and the developing alike.

The conference reiterated that the developed world remained primarily responsible for the level of greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed to global warming, adding that developing and emerging economies would continue to add to greenhouse gas emissions on account of their pressing development needs.

Mr Naimur Rahman, Director, OneWorld South Asia said: “We come forward to advocate for a global solution to the global challenge of meeting climate change demands, underpinned by global institutional and financial mechanisms.”

He further added: “We also seek the inclusion of the voices from the South, of the poor, the marginalised, and the grassroots communities in the climate change dialogue, and in formulating appropriate and just strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.”         

A highlight at the conference was the launch of “LifeLines for Education” – an innovative digital service that provides teachers in rural India with access to critical instructional resources and pedagogical assistance. The project has been carried out by OneWorld South Asia in collaboration with USAID, British Telecom (BT), Cisco, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, International Youth Foundation and QUEST Alliance.