In December 2009, delegates from around the world will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Copenhagen will provide a critical opportunity for the world's nations to reach a comprehensive agreement before the commitments set out in the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012.
A recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points to COP 15 as the focal point for decisive action by the world's nations, in the effort to avoid a growing number of potentially disastrous environmental changes.
Yet a discussion of conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms is missing from the COP 15 Provisional Agenda, and the range and power of environmental mediation and similar techniques is not widely understood or agreed to by the parties who will be expected to sign the agreement that will replace the one adopted in Kyoto.
Article 14 of the 1992 UNFCCC negotiated in New York and Rio de Janeiro, which is reaffirmed in Article 19 of the Kyoto Protocol, states:
"... in the event of a dispute between any two or more Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention, the Parties concerned shall seek a settlement of the dispute through negotiation or any other peaceful means of their own choice."
However, the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan conflict analysis advisory organization, has pointed out:
"[A] key challenge today is to better understand the relationship between climate change, environmental degradation and conflict and to effectively manage associated risks through appropriate conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms."
It is clear to experienced conflict resolution professionals everywhere that conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms need to be a core part of the Copenhagen climate change negotiations and an indispensible element in international efforts to implement them afterward. Without these mechanisms, global solutions will be much more difficult to negotiate and implement effectively and the time available to us to implement effective solutions is running out.
It is therefore incumbent on conflict resolution professionals to join together, travel to Copenhagen if possible, and if not, initiate a set of local and international dialogues on how conflict resolution methods can be used to effectively resolve climate change disputes.
What You Can Do
Mediators Beyond Borders (MBB) has been provisionally accepted as an observer organization at the COP 15 meeting, and to my knowledge is the only mediation organization that will be present. We have a simple message: we want to convince the delegates that mediation and other alternative dispute resolution techniques are viable options for resolving climate change disputes.
To achieve this goal, we will bring mediators from around the world to Copenhagen to inform delegates of the advantages of conflict resolution in resolving environmental and climate change issues, and encourage and support all parties in using it.
For those who are unable to attend the meeting, we will need justifications, explanatory materials and resources on environmental dispute resolution that can be passed out to delegates, and will need lots of local support. Here, for example, are ten things you can do:
1. If you are a mediator, come to Copenhagen and participate in the Mediation Seminar on December 10 and 11.
2. Write directly to the national representatives who will be attending the COP 15 Conference
3. Email politicians and opinion leaders in your area and encourage them to support mediation and alternative dispute resolution in resolving environmental disputes
4. Make a tax-deductible donation to help fund travel scholarships for mediators in countries affected by climate change who do not have the resources to come to Copenhagen
5. Contribute blogs to websites where people can discuss environmental issues
6. Contribute articles on environmental conflicts and mediation to www.mediatorsbeyondborders.org, and to our "Conflictpedia" site
7. Film brief interviews with knowledgeable people in your area on the importance and value of mediating climate change issues and send to Youtube and the MBB webpage
8. Collect training materials, stories and case studies on environmental mediation, especially regarding climate change
9. Contribute names and contact information to a referral list of mediators around the world who are able to mediate environmental disputes
10. Contact mediators in your area and help organize dialogues on climate change and ways of resolving environmental conflicts.
Copenhagen represents a unique opportunity for us to contribute to solving global environmental problems. The time to act is now. Please join us and help save the planet.