Cancun : a Mexican success

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Temps de lecture : 3 minutes  

The Cancun international agreement is the success of diplomacy in the South and the success of an exemplary female politician.

It was five o’clock in the morning and people were tired. Their heads were drooping onto their shoulders but everyone was smiling. Bad techno music was breathing a few last bouts of energy into them. But this wasn’t a Parisian afterparty; it was the bus taking the delegates back to their hotel, after what became the Cancun agreement.

Despite the exhaustion, the energy that marked the last meeting of the Cancun climate summit from the very start was still there. In fact, as soon as Patricia Espinosa, the President of the Conference, entered the room, everyone got up and applauded for a long time. This was highly unusual. And the applause barely stopped throughout the night.

All those who had been able to read the summary texts that her team had produced during the day liked it. Almost all of them agreed that it was a remarkable compromise. At the beginning, about fifteen delegates took it in turn to praise both the text and the Mexican president’s methods. Each speech was punctuated by applause. It was not only those representing countries directly under threat from climate change like the Maldives and Bangladesh who spoke; the representatives of the least developed African countries as well as Europe, the USA, China, Brazil and even the United Arab Emirates followed suit. They all also highlighted the remarkable open-mindedness, transparency and quality of the method with which The Mexican President set up the dialogue.

Probably, no other concert has ever been applauded so much. And yet, there were very few notes; the words were similar and the applause always sang the same praises.

Only one country was not singing the same tune: Bolivia. Its representatives denounced the text’s inadequacies and expressed their clear disapproval of it. The applause was then rapidly directed against the Bolivian representatives. After several hours, the representatives of all the other countries still kept applauding and the President overrode Bolivia’s objections.

The text was approved that morning. Very quickly, many things were said about the agreement and its main points (including its “green” form and REDD+). It was of course, described as insufficient. It was also said that because it is a real compromise, it displeases a lot of people a little, even though it satisfies almost all of them.

But there are two other comments I would like to focus on.

Firstly, the emergence of diplomacy in the South. Whilst the Danish presidency – a country usually known for its diplomatic qualities –failed pitifully in Copenhagen, Mexico showed it had the diplomatic skills needed to reach an agreement. We know that Southern countries rapidly take up major positions in international relations – especially the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China). Today, in Cancun, Mexico which is part of the South, even if it is located in the Northern hemisphere and it is an OECD country, has shown that it is also taking its place as a negotiator and organiser of international relations. And it did so in an exemplary manner, in a spirit of open-mindedness, transparency and compromise.

It was also one woman’s success. Women are not necessarily more gentle, diplomatic or attentive than men. And the Copenhagen failure was also down to Connie Hedegaard’s (the Danish President) methods. Cancun therefore owes a lot to Patricia Espinosa.

Of course, neither is she the only female politician in the South, especially barely a few days after Aung San Suu Kyi’s liberation. But one can hope that she will make a generation of young women want to take their rightful place in the future of their country and the world.

The Cancun text is a step, and just a step. After the disastrous Copenhagen Summit, it has put a seemingly outdated multilateral system of negotiations back into place and boosted the fight against climate change. But beyond being a mere step, it is also a sign that our world is perhaps changing much more than we realised.

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