We’re all in the same canoe – negotiating world climate directions at COP23

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Senior Campaigner Helen Heather writes from the close of the UN Climate Talks in Bonn.

As I entered the UN Climate Talks, I immediately noticed the vibrancy and welcome (‘Bula’) of the Fijians who have presided over the negotiations. Their presence during these negotiations has been hard to miss as they have elevated the voices of small islands, the Pacific nations and all vulnerable countries urgently needing climate action.

Indeed the symbol the Fiji delegation shared with everyone here is a Drua – a Fijian ocean-going canoe – with the message “we are all in the same canoe”. [Read more…]

5 things to watch out for at the Bonn climate talks

 

Government delegates from almost every country in the world have started global talks on climate change in Bonn, Germany. What do we need to see from governments this year?

1. Keep the spirit of Paris alive and stand by their promises, to safeguard people’s lives and livelihoods

Two years ago in Paris, world leaders promised to prevent irreversible climate change, urged on by faith leaders, civil society and businesses.  Now governments must turn that promise into reality.  They must keep the momentum going to ensure the Paris Agreement delivers on its full potential. [Read more…]

Bridging the gap: Connecting communities, churches and governments to do effective advocacy at the local level

serere-district-local-governmentLucie Woolley, Tearfund Advocacy Learning and Research Officer explores how to connect communities, churches and governments to advocate effectively at the local level.

‘Before, you would get a [community dialogue] meeting with maybe only ten or so people attending and speaking on behalf of the whole village. Now, the whole village turns up. They have the courage now.’

 – Joseph Opit, Chairman for Serere District County

The church effect

Local churches are not about the buildings, but about the people who make up their congregations. At their best, they are places of radical community, where everyone is welcome and relationships are formed across social barriers. They can be safe spaces where people talk to different groups in an environment that promotes trust and understanding. [Read more…]

Comparative advantages of local, national and international actors in emergencies

When you’re facing a crisis who do you turn to? Or what happens when your usual support networks like family, friends and neighbours are not around? Most of us can only imagine what we would do if our crisis became a war in the country we live in.

But that’s the reality for people who have been affected by the conflict in South Sudan, which erupted in December 2013. It began in the capital, Juba and then spread rapidly across the country’s different states. Local survival mechanisms have been depleted since then and populations have few remaining resources. [Read more…]

Getting a Paris climate deal that works for the poorest

Ramesh at COP 21
Ramesh Babu works in partnership with Tearfund in India and is currently at the UN climate change talks in Paris. He has one question on his mind: How do we get an agreement that works for the very poorest people in the world?

There are over 30,000 people charging around the organised chaos that is the negotiating rooms of Le Bourget in Paris all trying to close a global climate deal in the next few hours. I have come with one question in mind: how do we get an agreement here in Paris that works for the very poorest people in the world? Earlier this week I heard from Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who has the unenviable task of pulling all of this together into a deal by the weekend. She said we need an agreement which “meets national and local needs, keeps scientific integrity, and promotes prosperity for all”.  It is her words “for all” that resonate most strongly with me. [Read more…]

We are all here together

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Sarah Wiggins offers some reflections from Paris through the eyes of people she has spent the past week with.

‘If there is a silver lining, beautiful in this situation, it is that we are all being required to acknowledge that we are all here, we exist together.’ John Mark McMillan, Paris, December 2015

The climate talks at COP21 in Paris is a vibrant place to be. World leaders are here – people like President Hollande can be glimpsed being corralled towards their next appointments by throngs of suits, camera people and mobile-phone-shutter-happy-observers. [Read more…]

Faith for the Climate: Hope into Action in Paris and beyond

As the COP21 Conference enters it’s second week, Bishop Efraim M. Tendero The Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance reflects on his time at the conference and the role the global church can play in this issue going forward.

We came from 195 countries to Paris, some 40,000 individuals from government, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, Non Government Organizations and civil society for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference.

I salute all the participants for working hard to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. [Read more…]

Three things the Pope and Martin Luther King can teach the climate movement

By Rich Gower and Sue Willsher

Today the Pope officially released his much anticipated message on climate change – an ‘Encyclical’ to his Bishops around the world. Much fuss has been made of the Pope ‘wading’ into an issue that’s seen as being about economics and politics rather than faith, for example US Presidential candidate Jeb Bush: “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

However, this shows exactly why it is so important for the Pope to speak out: as long as climate change is seen as a political or economic issue – rather than a moral one – we are unlikely to make the changes necessary to address it. The climate movement needs to learn the lessons of previous movements, such as US civil rights movement, and do more to make the moral case for action.

Here are three things that the Pope and Martin Luther King seem to have in common:

1. Making the moral case

Martin Luther King – and the Pope – both know that people act when something touches their sense of right and wrong.

For example, today, it seems obvious that policies such as segregation were immoral.  When children read about it in their schoolbooks, its abolition is portrayed as a great triumph of freedom over injustice.  However, people didn’t always see it like this.

Many Americans initially viewed the Civil Rights Movement through the lens of national security.  As tensions with the USSR rose, opponents worked hard to cast Civil Rights leaders as communist sympathisers, or at least argued that now was not the time for social upheaval.

It was only when campaigners such as King succeeded in defining segregation as immoral that they were able to trump other concerns and see it abolished: “And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong… If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The Pope gets that the science is clear on the problem – that climate change is widely viewed as man-made, that there are clear and evidence-based solutions – including a global agreement at the crucial Climate talks in Paris in December. But what we now need is persuading people that the problem is worth addressing – now. We need stronger motivations and a winning of hearts and minds.

The pope is “aiming at a change of heart. What will save us is not technology or science. What will save us is the ethical transformation of our society.”

As a society and as a planet, we need to realise that addressing climate change has as much to do with justice, love, duty, and honour as it does with economics.

2. Having a resonant story

Facts on their own rarely move people to change, it also requires stories that help, as we set out in Tearfund’s new thought piece the Restorative Economy  “people and societies make sense of where they are, how they got there, where they are trying to get to and how to achieve change. Stories that define our worldview and have the potential to create our reality as much as they describe it, such as Jesus’ parables or the ones that Churchill told Britain in 1940”.

Civil Rights activist Andrew Young remembers, “when Martin would talk about leaving the slavery of Egypt and wandering into the promised land… that made sense to folks.” (Rochon, 1998, Culture Moves. p56)  Similarly, the Pope sets the issue of climate change within the larger story of humankind’s God-given role of stewarding our home – earth.

We need stories that “help us think in terms of a larger us – one that moves from ‘people like us’ to simply ‘people – like us’.  A longer future – beyond the next news cycle, financial quarter or election – looking out instead for generations to come.  And a better ‘good life’ – an understanding that security, consumption and well-being are not three words that all mean the same thing”.

3. Patience in speaking truth to power

Finally, we need to recognise that we need to be in it for the long game. King worked tirelessly on civil rights for many years until his assassination in 1968. Previous Popes have written on creation, but Pope Francis is the first to link the issues of environment, economy and poverty – and speak directly on climate change.

As we make clear in the Restorative Economy report, “political and social change doesn’t unfold in a steady, linear fashion: instead it is complex, unpredictable and takes time. There is often a long period when our efforts seem to yield few results. But then comes a tipping point, after which events snowball and things suddenly start to fall into place. The Jubilee 2000 campaign is a great example: comprehensive debt cancellation was an idea that was first put forward in the 1980s, but it took nearly two decades for it to come to fruition.”
Already, increasing numbers of people are starting to see climate change and the policies that support it as immoral, and the Pope’s encyclical should help ‘move the needle’ even further. Recent ComRes polling commissioned by Tearfund shows Christians recognise that the environment and climate change problems are the main issues facing the world over the next ten years. So, the Pope’s ‘wading in’ is exactly what the climate movement needs – and many in the movement realise this. In and of itself it won’t change behaviour, but it does provide a great invitation and indeed, a strong urging, for all people to take these issues seriously.

Why the European elections matter for development

This is a Guest Post from Stephanie Beecroft, Advocacy Officer for EU-CORD, a network of 22 Christian Organisations in Relief and Development of which Tearfund is a member. 

If you’ve kept up with any of the news coverage or the party campaigns for the May elections in recent weeks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the future of the UK within Europe will be wrapped up that day.

Whether the UK should be ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the European Union is clearly an important issue for voters, but the question won’t actually be decided at the European elections. Thursday, 22 May won’t provide the backdrop for a final showdown on membership of the EU.

What the election campaigns probably haven’t told you is the importance of the European Parliament elections for the global fight EP-Elections-Word-Cloudto end poverty. And yet, they will have far-reaching consequences, impacting on the EU’s ability and willingness to support communities living in poverty or victims of disasters around the world.

The European Union as a whole is the world’s biggest donor of development and humanitarian aid and the world’s largest trading bloc. Policy and funding decisions made at EU level have a significant impact around the world. The European Parliament can play a strong and decisive role for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

It can be the difference between an EU that takes aid funding seriously and one that consistently fails to live up to its commitments. It can be the difference between an EU that cares about conflicts and crises around the world and one that turns its back and pretends not to see. It can be the difference between an EU that promotes transparency, accountability and development that works for people, and one that puts business and profits first.

Back in 2012 I supported Tearfund to lobby the European Parliament, calling on MEPs to support new laws demanding that European extractive companies publish the payments they make for oil, gas and precious minerals in countries where they operate. The EU passed this legislation last year, providing communities in natural resource-rich countries with the opportunity to see how much money their governments are receiving and hold them to account.

The European Parliament played a big role in pushing through this unprecedented legislation. If the Parliamentarians had been less favourable to the plight of those living in poverty around the world or unwilling to listen to the likes of Tearfund campaigners and partner Bishop Stephen Munga from Tanzania, that legislation might not have been passed. A European Parliament whose members are less favourable to development for the next five years might lead to the failure of policies and legislation that could be equally important for the communities that Tearfund supports.

Whatever your position on the European Union it is important to realise that decisions made by the European Parliament can have a big impact on people living in poverty and at risk of disasters around the world. Your vote and your choice of candidates in the European elections can make a difference to the direction of those decisions. Before heading to the polling station on 22 May, it’s important to know what the different candidates and parties in your constituency stand for. If you’re unsure what they think, www.electio2014.eu can help you find out.

As you head to vote in the European elections, ask yourself what kind of Europe you want to see. If that Europe is a Europe that puts people first and stands against inequality and unfair policies in the world, use your vote wisely.

For more about the elections read the EU-CORD elections briefing or the BOND election manifesto.

Life for Syrian refugees outside of official camps – how local churches are making a difference

For the launch of Tearfund’s media report ‘Overcrowded and overlooked’ this is a guest blog post by Rupen Das. Rupen is the Director of one of Tearfund’s partnering organisations helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Rupen Das profile

As the crisis in Syria and its neighbouring countries enters its third year, it is heart breaking that the humanitarian situation is getting worse, and a peace deal through the diplomatic talks seems unreachable.

The conflict has been described as the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war. The scale of the response is hugely challenging as more than 2.2 million Syrians are hosted in the region placing unprecedented strain on communities, infrastructure and services in host countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

In Lebanon, where displaced Syrians now equal one-third of the population, there is huge strain on communities, infrastructure and services. Unlike Syria’s other neighbours there are currently no official camps in Lebanon for Syrians. While the UN has made great efforts to improve refugee registration, given the continued unprecedented increase of refugees, Lebanon and the other hosting countries still need practical and financial support. The burden on them is immense and unsustainable.

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Photo: Tearfund

Some Syrians who have fled are living with host communities such as friends and relatives. However, as space is finite within homes this can mean up to 30 people living in one bedroom apartments. Many others are renting accommodation in the highly inflationary private housing market, or being forced to find whatever shelter they can in empty and derelict buildings, or in informal tent  settlements. Some of the least fortunate can be seen sleeping rough under bridges, in parks and on the streets.

With an estimated 84 percent of refugees living outside camps, increased outreach capacity is needed to ensure all persons of concern have access to information and counselling regarding their status and available services. That’s why aid agencies like Tearfund are using local-based partner organisations and churches to support hundreds of vulnerable Syrians who are now living outside of formal camp settlements.

Caring for those who are not part of the mainstreams of society like refugees because of their brokenness and rejection is, amongst other things, a core part of how the church responds to those in need.

During challenging times churches can become places of compassion for anyone regardless of their faith or ethnic background. They are stepping out of their comfort zones and reaching out to those who do not belong to their group or community.  In Lebanon, many of the churches are demonstrating what forgiveness and reconciliation looks like through their acts of compassion as they forgive Syrians for their twenty year occupation of the country.

Three Syrian boys living in a make-shift informal camp in Lebanon. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund

Three Syrian boys living in a make-shift informal camp in Lebanon. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund

Local faith communities are often crucial operational partners assisting larger agencies. Practical examples of this include registering asylum seekers, community peace building, conflict mitigation, promoting sustainable livelihoods, and gender and child protection[1].  Partnerships formed by the faith-based agencies can have a significant advantage in this respect, being able to tap into pre-existing local networks to identify and respond to needs as they arise.

However we cannot do it alone, and we all need to work together – the UN, donors, large development agencies, different faith based organisations and local civil society. As the crisis continues, it is clear that while humanitarian assistance is vital, particularly for the refugees and host communities, a great hope of those who fled is to return to Syria.

Above all, they want the international community to invest in a peace plan for Syria to end the bloodshed and suffering.

Coverage of Tearfund’s partner work in Lebanon was broadcast on Channel 5 News which you can watch below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BoszCfMeEQ


[1] Joint Learning Initiative (JLI) Local faith communities and resilience in humanitarian situations policy note http://www.jliflc.com/~/media/Files/Joint%20Learning/LHAG%20Resilience/JLIFLC%20Faith%20%20Resilience%20Hub%20Policy%20Note.pdf