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The Power Of Activism At COP: A Personal Reflection

Ina-Maria Shikongo/Supplied

As I reflect on my journey as a climate activist, from grassroots community engagement to the global stage of climate conferences, I am struck by the transformative role activism plays at events like the Conference of the Parties (COP). My name is Ina-Maria Shikongo, and I have witnessed firsthand the impact of activism in shaping the discourse and outcomes of COP meetings.

My activism journey began with organizing workshops for local communities, schools, and orphanages an enriching exchange of knowledge that laid the foundation for my commitment to climate action. However, it was a pivotal moment in 2020 when the threat of oil drilling and fracking by Recon Africa in Namibia's Kavango region propelled me to step up my activism beyond local organizing. This marked the beginning of my engagement with Fridays for Future Windhoek and my eventual participation in COP events.

My first COP experience was at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. It was a mix of fear and amazement to find myself among like-minded individuals from around the world, all united by a common goal. However, it quickly became apparent that COP conferences are more than just platforms for dialogue—they are business meetings where promises often ring hollow against the backdrop of political maneuvering and corporate interests.

Speaking before a crowd of 70,000 people at COP26 was a surreal moment that elevated the urgency of the climate crisis, particularly in regions like Africa facing the brunt of environmental degradation. Yet, it also underscored the limitations of mere rhetoric without tangible action.

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My second COP experience in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, reinforced the power of civil society in influencing decision-making. Despite initial setbacks, the collective pressure from diverse stakeholders ensured that critical issues like loss and damage finance found their way into the final negotiations—a testament to the efficacy of grassroots activism.

COP 29 in Dubai, hosted by an oil-rich nation, highlighted the stark contrast between vested interests and environmental justice. The pervasive influence of the fossil fuel industry underscored the uphill battle against powerful lobbies and the urgent need for global solidarity.

For my third COP, I resolved to amplify the voices of frontline defenders and grassroots activists who are often sidelined in formal proceedings. While victories may seem incremental, the inclusion of "fossil fuels" in the final text marked a significant milestone after years of advocacy - a testament to the power of collective action.

In conclusion, the presence of activists at COP meetings is not merely symbolic but essential for ensuring that decisions reflect the needs of marginalized communities. As we navigate the complex terrain of climate negotiations, let us remember that real change begins with grassroots movements and the unwavering commitment of individuals like you and me.

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