Friday, January 20, 2006

Where there is a WILL, there is a way

I just returned from two weeks in Nairobi, Kenya, from the WILL 2006 conference on Labour and the Environment which the Varda Group, helped UNEP pull together.

I was hoping to somewhat blog the WILL conference while I was in Nairobi. But we had sooooooooo much work, it was just impossible.

Check out the WILL2006 website to get a taste, though. Alex worked really hard with Fanina and Lucie from UNEP's Internet team (UNEP is really lucky to have these very cool and highly qualified Internet professionals in their Nairobi HQs). Some elements are still missing on the website. It's just been very difficult to collect all the material in time. We're going to feed what's missing in the week-end, and on Monday-Tuesday, including the impressive list of participants. So, watch this space next week again. We also expect that by Monday Clif Curtis from WWF-International will have sent us the (very good) keynote address he gave on the final day as NGO witness to the conference.

The Labour movement now says that the Environment is a priority for them. That's pretty good. We did not waste our time. A Lot of people said this conference was "historic". Could be, we'll see. This will depend on the follow-up of course.

The international labour movement is in the middle of a merger process which is due culminate in November 2006 with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the World Labour Congress (WLC) and other democratic Trade Union organizations joining forces into one larger organization. Apparently the results of the conference that just finished in Nairobi will become a priority of the new organization. A lot of the merit should go to Lucien Royer of TUAC who has been working for years behind the scenes on environmenal and sustainability issues with the Trade Unions; the Workbook process which he established for the WILL conference was impressive, and a key to a good outcome. The people at Sustainlabour also worked hard with us to secure the presence of an impressive number of trade unionists from all over the world in Nairobi. When I proposed to UNEP little less than a year ago to hold this Conference on Labour and the Environment, they said "Hmmmm, interesting, but can you secure the presence of real trade unionists?".

It was great also to work with the team of UNEP's Major Group & Stakeholders' Branch, which is part of UNEP's Division of Policy and Law Development. When the conference was over I told them that what I liked best of them was their "activist" (read: not bureaucratic) attitude to the meeting: working long hours without looking at their wristwatch even when it was getting very late in the evening. With people like them, UNEP can save the world (isn't it their mandate, after all?).

During the closing ceremony, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, a wonderful story teller, said -- with reference to the title of the conference and its final Outcome Document: "Where there is a WILL, there is a way".

That's right.

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