When the journey is more important than the destination – CIDSE

When the journey is more important than the destination

Learning from others through the African Climate Dialogues

Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General, reflects on CIDSE’s participation in the African Climate Dialogues, a process bringing together actors from Africa and Europe to discuss priorities ahead of COP 27 from an African perspective. Like all the most enriching processes, it has pushed us outside of our comfort zone and allowed us to learn from others.

The African Climate Dialogues have come to a certain end (at least this chapter of the process), with a strong and inspiring statement and messages summarized in a Communiqué to bring to the climate negotiations and beyond. For this, we are grateful and proud.

As Catholic organizations preparing for COP 27, we began a process, some months ago, with partners from Church and civil society actors in Africa, that hoped to bring together some common messages, build up our collective capacity, and bring forward the voices of African Church and non-Church leaders on climate justice. It was an intense experience of learning and growing together. We set out on this path with the intention of creating together a synodal process of listening to each other and of being listened to by world leaders when we reached the COP 27 gathering. But we learned so much more than we even thought we would. 

When we look back, this process began some time ago. The groundwork was laid through relationships, partnerships, collaboration on the EU-Africa Summit, through our joint work on land rights, extractivism, and on corporate regulation. Through this existing partnership we were able to build new conversations around climate justice, and reach out to new actors to join in this reflection. But getting to this point has involved a process that was also new for us. We learned a great deal about collaboration, listening, and nurturing relationships that helped this process grow into something new.  

We have been working on different themes and perspectives: CIDSE’s work in Africa, other political issues not directly related to COP 27 such as land grabbing and extractivism, on the dialogue between continents. We have  developed a dialogue ​​with European leaders, challenging them with a new, strong, and credible narrative. This has also been achieved thanks to the relationships and links we have with SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) and other partners that together have allowed us to learn to truly listen to each other. This has been a synodal process, because listening to each other, also means challenging each other and ourselves through constant dialogue.

And we must recognize how new and challenging this is for Europe. There are historical reasons that make it even more complex for Europe to put itself in a position of listening and learning, but it has been good and necessary, because through this challenging of our own positions and perceptions, we can move forward and out of our own locked-in ideas, we continue our journey towards decolonization. We can look  how the power is concentrated in the hands of the few, and still being directed by the wealthier nations, and challenge this to promote true climate and energy justice for all.  

The African Climate Dialogue process has involved walking to this point. It has not been easy, but it has been very transformative. It has been a learning process, with mistakes, but these lessons that we have now can help us grow. 

Without a doubt, this has helped us to transform not only the way of doing advocacy and the content of our messages and actions, but also the way in which we engage in policy processes. I believe that we cannot forget the lessons of this path, because there are things that once seen cannot be unseen, as they transform the way we look at the world around us.  We will not be forgetting the messages that we have heard and expressed together in these dialogues, and we hope to share them widely, and carry them with us into all the different spaces where we have a presence. 

All information about the African Climate Dialogues is available here, and the final communiqué is available here.

Photo credit: CIDSE.

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