The Doha Experience

Every year the countries of the world - with the support of a number of scholars, specialists and members of civil society - gather at a giant meeting organized by the United Nations to negotiate the measures that shall be taken to address the risks of climate change.

However, results are not that easy! Applying the recommended measures may have disastrous effects on the economy of the developed countries, and therefore makes negotiations harder and even more complex.

Following the expiration of the Kyoto protocol agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it became imperative to find a new agreement through which the states agree on practical measures to be adopted to fight climate change or at least reach an agreement to extend the current Convention.

After the Cancun conference in Mexico and the Durbin conference in South Africa, it was the turn of the Qatari state to host one of the largest and most important environmental conferences.

But what matters in this context is that usually the host country that chairs the conference bears the largest burden for its success. Was Doha ready for this challenge?

We came to Doha and our pockets were filled with hope…and why not? It’s the first time in the history of the Arab region, an international conference of this size convenes in an Arab state…perhaps it was the time to lead!!

As expected, Doha welcomed us in its best look, providing us all with the best amenities and entertainment with 5-star services.

Qatar National Convention centre was chosen as the venue for the parties to meet and conduct negotiations.

In each conference of this kind, participating countries send official representatives to represent them within the halls of negotiations. The number of official representatives is high given the multiplicity of issues on the negotiating table.

Countries gather in groups, where they hold side meetings to negotiate a unified position that forms the basis for further negotiations in the Conference of Parties, therefore the presence of all countries in all sessions is not mandatory.

Negotiations started in a timid way and we needed for someone who could awaken the fire from under the rubble!

The first week passed without seeing any significant progress in the positions of the countries despite the hard work that was done by the civil society organizations to urge the heads of missions and especially the Arab ones to take bold positions that push negotiations forward.

But what we were afraid of was materializing… zero progress!!

During one of the closed meetings for the Arab league, we were surprised by the speech of one of the presidents of one of the missions informing us that negotiations are in stagnation and Arab countries can’t do anything except to wait and see what the upcoming hours will bring. As if the Arab states were playing the role of the observer in the talks taking a seat alongside the NGO’s!

The reason for this is due to the fact that developed countries such as the United States and China and many other countries refuse to make any commitment, so they adopt a policy of procrastination to get out with the lowest possible commitments.

At the end of the first week, the civil society organizations organized a demonstration filling the streets of the capital Doha to awaken the sleeping conscious of the leaders. The press was excited regarding this new step since it is the first demonstration in the history of the Qatari State…and who knows how many months of negotiations were spent to convince the Qatari state on the importance of accepting such a new step … eventually NGO’s got what they want “and so as” the Qatari State!

In the second week of negotiations, the country ministers started to flock to participate in the conference and clarify the official “political” position of their country. So negotiations started to become more serious and therefore were intensified. Issues of sovereignty finance and economics were put on the table for negotiations. What were the results of the last round of negotiations?

  1. Extend the duration of the work by the Kyoto protocol to 8 new years that begins on the first of December until the end of year 2020.
  2. Monitoring of the progress by the countries who signed the Kyoto protocol in the field of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions through a report to be submitted in beginning of 2014
  3. Continue in the work for a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as of start of year 2013
  4. Find a new framework agreement in the area of climate change to be adopted in 2015 and to start working by it as of 2020 so that the temperature in the world to rise by maximum 2 degrees as agreed
  5. Conduct a series of meetings and workshops to monitor the progress that is achieved through the commitments made by the countries
  6. Series of decisions related to financing, adaptations and other fields

But what is surprising is the paradox in the global media reporting the results of this conference.

Some media outlets described the results of the conference as historic since the agreement was inclusive of all parties and it was not rejected by any country while other media outlets saw the results of the convention as a farce and showed lack of seriousness as they saw the decisions that came out of the Parties of the Convention, just ink on paper. Most participants in the conference complained that the issues were not seriously addressed; even some developed countries such as the EU stated that too many conferences have been held in the last couple of years on the subject of the climate change but without any progress or achievement. Therefore it is time to abandon the current system and search for other alternative means that can be successful.

During an interview with a young participant in the conference asking him his opinion regarding the results of these negotiations, he stated: “I wasn’t expecting a lot, I wasn’t sure about the success of the conference from the beginning, how can I trust someone who takes decisions on my behalf and decide my fate and my future while he is not going to be part of this future?”

Disappointments were obvious on the faces of many. Why not? When the leaders of the world who were given the responsibility to look over our lives, don’t care about our future! The decisions that came out of this Doha conference were only to defer the problem and not a solution to the problem.

Some governments feel proud by the pledges they have made. Only if you know the type ofthese commitments! It’s just crooked means to cover their crimes. They close their own factories at home to reopen them in other countries... In developing countries! They mislead the public opinion, when they brag about the money they spend to finance projects to fight climate change. And this money is only spent for local and internal projects!

After this experience, many things became clear to me! Egocentricity and corruption are not!