Sustaining All Life at COP27

COP27 [the twenty-seventh United Nations conference on climate change] ended with a historic “loss and damage” agreement. This means that in the next twelve months there will be funding for countries facing the worst climate impacts. Countries in the Global South have been demanding that funding for thirty years. The agreement is a huge win—for the negotiators who stayed strong in the face of opposition and for civil society that stood in solidarity with them. 

One of the consistent and important messages coming from the climate movement over the years has been that we need to listen to those with the most experience in responding to the climate emergency. That expertise lies in the Global South, which is the most severely affected by the crisis. It was therefore exciting to hear that COP27 would be hosted by an African country, Egypt. The continent that is the most affected by the climate emergency should be on the forefront of the climate negotiations in every way possible. 

Our Sustaining All Life (SAL) delegation to the COP consisted of thirty-four Co-Counselors—from Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, Morocco, Haiti, Mexico, the Netherlands, England, Canada, and the United States. We worked in both the Blue Zone (governmental area) and the Green Zone (civil society area), doing listening projects, listening circles, forums, and workshops. 

Our activities were primarily conducted in English, with interpreting into Arabic, French, or Spanish as needed by the participants or those leading the activities. Beautiful connections happened between people who did not speak the same language. It was fun to find a way to communicate beyond words.

I loved being part of the leadership and doing the work we had to do to get to the COP—especially the work on racism, colonialism, imperialism, and fully backing [supporting] the thinking and leadership of Indigenous and Global Majority (IGM) people. I had to constantly push against genocide recordings that tell us we stay safe by staying small and quiet. 

Why do we go to the COPs? Despite the slow pace of change, hopeful things come out of them. We cannot end the climate emergency without ending all oppressions and divisions. Sustaining All Life models what reaching across the divisions looks like and how to work on what is in the way. We support the work other people are doing to end the climate emergency by helping them access the discharge process, heal from the emotional hurts, build relationships, and gain full access to their minds and brilliance. 


For the first time, an SAL delegation to a COP was led by three women from the Global South—Iliria Unzueta [Regional Reference Person for Mexico} and I, online and in person, and Chioma Okonkwo [Regional Reference Person for Nigeria and West Africa], in person. 

The delegation worked well together in overcoming the obstacles to getting us all to Egypt. There were buddies for the people having difficulty with visa applications. They put many hours into getting the delegates there. The visa process gave us and our allies a clearer picture of what it takes for IGM people to get visas and travel from one point to another and the inequalities and oppressive systems we have to face to be fully present. 

In working together, both online and in Egypt, the delegation had valuable opportunities to reach out for each other, build relationships, embrace each other’s ideas, and face the world as a team. 

This was SAL’s biggest delegation of Africans at a COP. That was a big highlight for me. It was precious to sit at our events and hear the leaders’ powerful presentations, especially knowing what each of them had gone through to get to Egypt.

Egypt worked hard as a host, both inside and outside of the COP. We found a helpful and kind person around each corner. I remember one evening in one of the cafes by the streets. A popular African song was playing, and one of the staff pointed at the four of us (African women), and we had a little dance together and a lot of laughter, even though we did not share a common language. 

Despite the numerous challenges with the pace and process of the climate negotiations, the spirit of the COPs has been my biggest contradiction to hopelessness about the climate crisis. I say this because of the interactions among the people, including our SAL delegations, who show up year after year and relentlessly share their tools and ideas, and because of how well and quickly our connections have turned into a bigger and more powerful global movement. 

Janet Kabue

Area Reference Person for Nairobi, Kenya, 
and leader, with Iliria Unzueta, 
of the SAL delegation to COP27

Nairobi, Kenya

(Present Time 210, January 2023)

Last modified: 2023-10-18 09:18:12+00