Fellows Speak Out: Influencing International Agreement & the Case of Current Climate Negotiations

Our Fellows represent some of the region’s most innovative social innovators – Arabs that are experts in their fields, and have committed their lives to bringing about positive social change. Our ‘ Fellows Speak Out’ series on this blog will present a platform for  these leading social entrepreneurs to share their views, to spread their message and to describe their daily work to create lasting impact in the Arab world.

The first post comes from Wael Hmaidan, a social innovator from Lebanon who is promoting youth activism by identifying ‘local heroes’. Based on his own experience as a climate activist for Greenpeace, Wael is now working to spread social activism amongst young people in the Arab world through his ‘league of  independent activists’; IndyACT.

Picture of Wael

Ashoka Fellow Wael Hmaidan

What would cause any individual to leave everything at the drop of the hat, and live for two weeks with little food and even less sleep, and without any pay during the UN climate negotiations? It is the same reason why IndyACT exists: passion to save the planet. We first and foremost are activists working for a better future for us and generations to come.

People think we enjoy our work (which we do, though sometimes we wish we had a different job) and some believe we might be paid well for it (in fact most of us are not paid, let alone paid well). But we at IndyACT do know one thing: if we do not reach a strong agreement on climate change in the Copenhagen UN summit at the end of the year, life on earth will be threatened.

A typical day in the life of a climate activist is not a normal day by anybody’s definition (maybe only normal to the climate activists themselves). Take the Climate negotiations sessions for example; up by 6am to finish up yesterday’s work, 7am is breakfast time (or better known as the only meal of the day), 8am is when the meetings start. You spend the day lobbying, lecturing, intervening, organizing events, meeting delegations, publishing reports, etc. By 11pm, those of us who aren’t on editing shifts to produce the daily NGO newsletter at the negotiations head to the hotel to work and prepare for the next day, we are lucky when we are in bed by 2am.

Being a change maker working on climate policy negotiation is not an easy job to do. You have to be at the top of your game 24/7, reading and following on any climate change related research, discussion, or policy position every day of the year. You also have to be an expert on foreign and domestic policy of each country, their economies, political issues, social behavior, etc. in order to know how to talk to delegates, how to influence countries to change their policies, and how to get the NGO community to stay united at all times. You have to understand that while you are doing all these enormous tasks, you are considered a hero if you are able to change one sentence in the whole negotiation text.

By Wael Hmaidan – IndyACT (www.indyact.org)

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