Tuesday, November 14, 2017

COP 23, and the Myth of Choice

Well, that was quite a time.

The COP 23 negotiations have carried on, as I suppose they will. After some initial wrangling over the agenda, in which Germany was called in to stop Turkey from intervening and delaying the negotiations, things have been proceeding 'smoothly'. Who knows what this actually means? Smooth - as in, the negotiations are doing what we want them to do? Or alternatively, that there has been no opposition?

My experience of the COP has been limited by schedule, as we're ostensibly here to work on a project with the Umweltbundesamt, or German Environment Agency. The work involves collaboration with refugees living locally, on a performance that is presented alongside a forum about Climate Migration.

To say this work has been difficult for esteemed collaborator Sonja Hornung and I is highly understating that point.  Entering the fray of refugee politics, where the smell of blood permeates what should be matters of simple humanitarian organisation, with a group of vulnerable people is an extremely difficult thing to try and do. Compounding that, is our limited experience working with vulnerable people, and the fact that this particular collaboration is with German government - who are not always the most sensitive to either art or vulnerability. Furthermore, there's the context of this COP, itself seemingly favouring the pre-existing structures and not, say, agitating for change. All of which makes the stakes for that project high, and the pressure reasonable immense.

 Image: Victoria Bartetzko

We were aided by a group of collaborators who proved to be tremendous. I have long maintained that the resilience and openness of many of or seeking refugee status is precisely the kind of spirit that I want to coexist alongside. The experience of fleeing conflict is one that Europe believes it knows well - and yet circumstances today are quite different to 70 or even 25  (in the case of the Bosnia-Serbia conflict) years ago, as is the geography. Whereas 25 years ago, 438,000 refugees entering Germany from Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Serbia and Kosovo seemed like a logical conclusion, in 2015 a media hysteria ensued.