On the move…

Where have I been?

Time for the apologies and the remorse to spill out? nahhh, this is a blog not a service, though I have felt bad that my 3rd year of studying law (i.e my final year) has taken over my life, it has been an interesting year, and would I have felt worse if my degree has suffered because I devoted time to this blog. So apologies no, but explanations, yes.

That is the punch line really, I have been studying, finishing off my law degree this last year, and finally getting to study things of interest to me, like environmental law and international law. This has meant some of my thinking has moved a bit since I was last writing, and unfortunately, my parents are right, I have started to think like a lawyer. What that actually means though is my criticisms are based on literal interpretations within the small amount of legalistic language I have learnt – which involves analysing every single word for all possible connotations – and requiring accuracy of statements from whoever’s writing. That is, as I started doing after my first year at university, I started qualifying my statements more, making them less direct, but certainly more accurate, because its rare that one can make a simple definitive statement, unless of course its your opinion. I hope this doesn’t make what I’m saying any less engaging or rallying, I know law-ish things tend to have that effect on people, including myself! What I have taken from the degree are bits here and there, that can be applied to non-legal things and improve their communication and analysis as a result. The last three years have been a tough calling to just sit down and get on with, but its done, and not too shabbily, and now I have a tool under my belt that has already proven useful to any path I choose to carve out.


What’s the story now?
I have no answer to that either!
I don’t want to be a lawyer, and I’m interested in the intersection between using the law creatively, and politics; so for now, policy I think.
But there are so many ways to effect policy, that’s supposedly democracy right? This year and maybe beyond therefore, is going to be a process of elimination by getting involved in things, doing internships, whatever it is to get the relevant experience that allows me to make a judgement as to how I can be most useful and be happy with what I’m doing.

Step No.1
Move to Beirut, Lebanon, for 3 months.
Next week I am going to start an internship with the NGO IndyAct, which is based in Beirut and is slowly expanding into Egypt but also aims to do things all over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). IndyAct have been given funding by the Qatari Government to build an Arab Youth Climate Movement, and that’s the team I will be working on. What is an Arab Youth Climate Movement?

No one quite knows yet. And really, it should be up to the young people involved to decide that, what IndyAct will be doing is facilitating such discussions rather leading the “movement”.
The importance of this plan at this time, is simply that the next UN Climate Negotiations are being hosted by Qatar, that’s the tiny country to the right of Saudi Arabia on the Gulf coast. Its an extremely wealthy state, and alongside its economic clout, it seeks diplomatic clout. The environmental community (if you can even call it that) is somewhat perplexed by this new bout of enthusiasm for tackling climatic problems caused by the very stuff they make their mint on….
I think I’m right in saying the camps are split: half saying they are a Gulf State, all they can really want out of this is to derail the talks (which they can do because the host country chairs the plenary sessions and there are other Arab states holding chairing positions, such as Libya and the Saudi’s); and the other half saying the next step on the diplomatic ladder is for them to engage with this issue, i.e developed states don’t ignore this anymore, so get on bored or do not expect full diplomacy agogo.
Who knows…we shall have to wait and see.
Either way though, Arab youth, this is the time to shine. Media will be as curious as we are of the Arab States throughout the 2 weeks, so they should be there to offer their perspective on what’s being said, and the alternative policies they would like to see promoted. The experience of attending their first COP, and the media attention attached, should have a galvanising effect in giving Arab youth involved the inspiration and food for thought to build a much wider and longer lasting movement than could ever be done in the next few months leading up to COP18.

I’ll be blogging more regularly from now on, given that this is a whole new area of interest for me, the Arab world, and it will be a steep learning curve from an environmental perspective. Not because I want to go there and promote Western solutions boxed up with an ‘environmental policy’ label on them, but because I am interested in deeper engagement. That is, engaging with the young people who have been calling for social and political justice so strongly over the last year and a half, by bringing together the ‘environmental’ and social justice narratives to demonstrate how they can effectively support each other and should be called for in tandem. The political landscape in these countries is so fast moving, and in some areas, volatile; and the societal context that I will be working within so alien to me-primarily the religious piety and the societal expectations of young people and women-that I want keep thinking through my experiences and disseminating them, because those in the ‘environmental’ camp have consistently shunned engaging with these states out of partly a lack of resources and part laziness – its comforting and easy to blame the ills of  the climate change discourse on a collection of stubborn opposers.

Well, the chips are down, and they’ve called our bluff, so its time to engage, and lets do it properly this time.



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