Hidden climate voices make climate goals unachievable


By Peter Makwanya

WHILE global climate change voices are dominated by the global north discourse communities who are also leading emitters in the global south, the same voices are hidden by the global south authorities before they suppressed by the global north in a vicious cycle of suppression.

What this means is that in a majority of cases and situations, the global south is its own enemy by ignoring the climate concerns of the ordinary majority, without sufficiently nurturing inward climate initiatives. These local level initiatives are the ones that drive resilience as resilience cannot be achieved from borrowed or prescriptive measures by the global north. Local level initiatives, are people centred, driven and context specific but authorities in the global south normally do not take time to consult, engage and include the climate concerns and voices of their own communities.

Given that mitigating climate change impacts is a process rather than events, there appears to be an  interlocution gaps which directly affects disadvantaged groups and communities in the global South. It is a double tragedy. Whereas in the global south, there is inherent deliberate discrimination, selective listening and retention among communities. Even when it comes to international negotiations and conference of parties (COPs), representatives from global south, after undermining themselves at home by excluding vital local voices, they are already weakened and vulnerable. No wonder why they always cry foul at every COP conference.

When the global south nations go for international negotiations they also face subtle exclusion, discrimination and backgrounding of their ideas, through structural communication roadblocks in the form of conforming to the dictates of international diplomacy and negotiations. By so doing, the global south, normally comes back empty-handed, with only pledges rather than solutions to their climate concerns.

Besides having climate concerns or impacts of climate change to deal with, nations in the global south already face many setbacks, they are in perpetual debt, COVID-19 plagued and weakened. With famine, drought, floods, disasters and carbon emission inequalities, among others, the global south has many tasks to perform in order to change their lifestyles, situations and build resilience. Furthermore, by focusing mainly on mitigation issues, global south concentrates less on adaptation issues.

The continued sidelining of critical global south voices, as communities on the frontline of climate change impacts, means alienating some of the transformative ideas and solutions to global climate change mitigation and adaptation. As such, even the global conference of parties (COPs) would remain a vicious cycle of contested and recycled ideas.

Nations of the global south, in the midst of a myriad climate challenges and shortcomings, it appears nations in the global north may not be dealing with their global south counterparts in good faith and as equal partners. In order to address global climate change impacts, there is need for sincere, inclusive and genuine collaborative engagements, as stakeholders, where all voices, especially those from the global south are acknowledged. The world also forgets that those in the marginal areas of the global south, whose voices normally do not count, are stakeholders too as they are the most impacted by climate change.

It has also been noted that the global climate negotiations have always been influenced by emissions more than local level interventions that the marginalised and the muted global south voices are experiencing. The concerns and resilience interventions of communities of the global south remain perpetually sidelined. Actors in the global south have lots of potential, history of resilience options and opportunities, although not well documented deserve mentioning and foregrounding. This is important in reflecting the existing realities in the global south including global emissions, poverty, resilience and mitigation inequalities when the global north and south are juxtaposed.

There is need for both axis, global north and south, to listen to the voiceless from the global south so that they count. The issue of voice is critical and instrumental, if one cannot be heard people should read their works. Unfortunately, the majority of those in the global south who live in marginal environments, despite having a wealth of knowledge, experience and information, don’t have the platform to communicate. It becomes self-defeating if these communities cannot be heard, read and understood.

This is due to the fact that the voice is often viewed as a mechanism through which communities can express their climate opinions and concerns. If the sidelining, manipulation and alienation persist, the marginalised communities of the global south because their voices are backgrounded by powerful forces in the global north will choose not to articulate their ideas. Of course they will keep what is theirs to themselves and this will contribute to a dearth of global climate action strategies and solutions, making adaptation and mitigation unachievable.

  • Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes here in his personal capacity and can be contacted at: petrovmoyt@gmail.com