COP17 was officially opened Monday 28th Nov. with a welcome ceremony attended by the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency, Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma and H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation for the Republic of South Africa and President Elect of COP17/CMP7, together with many other dignitaries.
Despite limited access for NGO’s, due to their registration as a Research and Independent Organisation (RINGO), the Brahma Kumaris received invitations for 3 people. Sister Jayanti, Golo Pilz and Usha Jevan from Durban attended the welcome ceremony, which also included spectacular African Zulu dance and singing.
During the two weeks of the conference our exhibition stand at COP17 will serve as a focal point of our central theme of the conference Consciousness and Climate Change – Building Capacity and Building Power (Solar Energy).
Inter-generational Dialogue – Honouring Wisdom and Strengthening Commitment – University of KuzuNatel at Howard College, Shepstone
The first program at the NGO Forum with Panellists:
Sister Jayanti – Director Brahma Kumaris Europe and Middle East
Youth: Theresa Mungazi – Program Manager for Young Voices Network with a degree in Applied Environmental Sciences, Zimbabwe
Dr Sandika Baboolal- Medical doctor with special interest in environment
Simmi Dullay - Lecturer in gender studies, Degree in Fine Arts
Edna Kaptoyo - Programme officer at Indigenous Information Network
Four professional and dynamic young women joined Sister Jayanti in a lively and informative dialogue moderated by Devindree Pillay. Their conversation touched on many key issues around climate change and other major crisis facing humanity today; justice, gender equality, value based education and inter-generational communication, to name a few.
Theresa emphasised the need for value based education and posed the question; ‘Decisions are based on our value system, but the spiritual dimension is missing. When I share some of my ideas, young people just look at me strangely. How can I get my ideas across in an acceptable way?’ Sister Jayanti took up the topic by saying “Young people don’t want to be seen as the odd one out and so create ideas that catch on with them such as cycling instead of driving wherever you go or buying local foods in season instead of imports. This way it becomes ‘in’ to be ‘green’”.
Coming from an activist family, Simmi shared some of her disillusionment around initiatives such as COP17. She felt that negotiations do not bring about justice, only compromise and so issues such as wealth distribution and gender inequality are never resolved. Therefore the plight of the poor and women, in particular, especially in Africa, is never improved. Sister Jayanti responded that “Injustice can create anger, but this approach compounds the problem. Criticism separates me from others and then I cannot influence them. First I have to remove my own weaknesses and then I can engage calmly and clearly with others and achieve my goals. With truth we are able to make a difference and bring about the change that we would like to see”.
In the evening a welcome reception hosted by the President of COP 17/CMP 7, took place at the City Hall of Durban. The large room was filled to capacity and decorated creatively with recycled materials such as cushions stitched out of sugar sacks. Soft green spotlights flooded the room from high ceilings highlighting a ‘forest’ of cleverly stitched hearts and African continents made from stuffed newspaper hanging from white painted branches. Julia Grindon-Welch and Sonja Ohlsson attended and met many fellow delegates.