Postscripts to COP28 (1) | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Postscripts to COP28 (1)

/ 04:10 AM December 12, 2023

A week ago, I was in two country pavilions at the Conference of Parties (COP) 28 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Aside from speaking in two panel discussions in the Finland and Pakistan country pavilions, I also took part in a television talk show and an online meeting with youth leaders in different parts of the world. All these were focused on the pivotal role of women in countries vulnerable to adverse consequences of extreme weather events associated with climate change.

Principals or heads of state of member countries or parties to the UNFCCC met at a distinct venue of their own, discussing important items in this year’s agenda, especially on taking stock of what has been accomplished after 27 years of holding the COPs. This is the global stock-take on how different countries have performed in terms of lessening the levels of toxic emissions from machinery and engines using fossil fuels and other forms of “dirty” energy.

This year, UNFCCC parties agreed to pool resources and money together toward creating a “loss and damage fund,” a global resource for distribution to countries that have suffered immensely from losses and damages associated with devastation from extreme climate events. Many private sector and civil society leaders who took part in this year’s COP as volunteers or observers (or overflow, as the term the UN system used to refer to people like me who are neither part of the UN system nor part of a national government) hailed this first-ever piece of agreement among the parties that was forged in the COP 28’s first two days.


I heard that the center was built three years ago in what was once a huge swathe of desert that is now part of the industrial complex of the city emirate of Dubai. Each member country has its own pavilion, where country-specific discussions and meetings took place. The country pavilions were also intended for the member country to welcome investors and other private sector trade partners who are willing to collaborate on projects promoting clean and renewable energy. This is currently the focus of several initiatives in other parts of the developing world, especially in some African and Asian countries that have been devastated by recent extreme weather events, like flooding and droughts.


One of the key “accomplishments” of this year’s COP is the agreement to pool resources for a loss and damage fund. The secretariat still has to release the implementing guidelines on how this fund is going to be distributed and which countries the management of the fund will prioritize for distribution.

But I am quite apprehensive of the mechanics of its distribution. From my long years as a social development activist and adviser in the Bangsamoro region and other marginalized areas in Mindanao, I have seen how development funds have not created the optimum results they were designed for, due largely to a confluence of many factors. Foremost of this is that Philippine society largely operates on social structure and stricture that have largely drowned or muted the important role of women and other vulnerable, marginalized sectors in the design and mechanics of implementation of development projects. Many project or program management staff conceptualize and design projects without the participation of people for whom their projects are intended. For instance, poverty alleviation projects are largely planned in posh and comfortable locations in Metro Manila without poor people participating in these planning discussions.

This is also true for planning on disaster risk reduction and mitigation. Officials at the local levels of the disaster risk and reduction management offices craft the plans among themselves and only ask a few “token” representatives from those who are in areas vulnerable to both flooding and droughts.

Currently, I lead a team of researchers doing fieldwork on the intersections of climate security, violent conflict, gender inequality, and social exclusion in two Maguindanao provinces and in Lanao del Sur. Partial fieldwork data have already confirmed how women are disproportionately affected by both flooding and droughts, compared to their male counterparts. In addition, women coming from “second-order” minority groups like the non-Muslim indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro are further relegated to the sidelines in terms of timely response to their calls for help during disasters, as shared by some indigenous women informants. This is indicative of social exclusion at the local level, manifesting deep social fissures in a culturally diverse context like the Bangsamoro region.

(More next week)

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TAGS: COP28, Kris-Crossing Mindanao

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