One of the most difficult responsibilities as an official observer is to quietly listen. I am to be a silent witness to the pain and frustration being expressed.
Two voices have been the most painful to witness.
The voices of the small island states have been gripping. Island after island has expressed the grim reality of rising sea levels. Their slow demise has become the empirical proof of the theory of climate change. Communities have been moved and coast lines have been lost.
As the days of negotiations progressed their plea to be heard has intensified. They are appealing for their lives. From the delegates of the Pacific and Caribbean we are hearing the plea of people drowning and have simply continued the dialogue. It is almost unbearable to hear.
The voice of the youth delegation has also been getting louder. They arrived with voices of energy and commitment. But a slow change is being witnessed.
It started with a letter of apology on behalf of Canada. They determined to say for Canada what they thought our country should have said. Their apology was printed in the Durban daily newspaper.
Their frustration seemed to increase. During the address of the Hon. Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of Environment, a group of youth stood in protest and turned their back on Canada. It was mildly disruptive to the Ministers statement but the peaceful protest was clear. The following morning a trio of youth walked out on Canada’s Climate Change Ambassador’s morning briefing clearly making a statement of dissatisfaction.
And now today, before Todd Stern, US Department of State could begin his address a lonely youth stood and began to loudly proclaim her outcry against the perceived ineffectiveness of her country in these negotiations. Her voice prevented Mr Stern from speaking.
The chair of the proceedings tried to quiet the voice of protest but was unsuccessful. The plea for justice and compassion continued.
“Please, please, sit down,” begged the chair, as media ran to pick up her voice.
“Please sit down,” the chair repeated, “no one is listening to you.”
The irony of the statement felt hung like a weight on my heart.
As the young woman was escorted from the room the frustrated chair could not quiet the sustained applause. It was as if the growing frustration of many was saying back to the negotiators, “please sit down, no one is listening to you.”