By Mary Howard, PISA Program Assistant
In his December 11, 2014 Remarks on Climate Change at COP-20, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted dynamic tensions with the ongoing fight against climate change: successes vs. drawbacks, science vs. politics, long-standing tradition vs. innovative adaptation. Each individual holds responsibility for carbon emissions, impacting national climate change policy, and proactive mitigation. While Kerry warns that the window for effective action is closing quickly, he is “confident we can rise above the debates that have dragged us down. We can find a way to summon the shared resolve that we need to tackle this shared threat. And if we do that, then we will reach an agreement and we will meet this challenge.”
Since 2007, PISA has facilitated capacity-building programs for climate change education and sustainable, green development for some of the most vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia. In total, five successful Leadership Institutes on Climate Change were organized, with a focus on mitigation and resilience. Without our strong and enduring partnerships throughout the region, PISA could not have organized such leadership training programs. MALICC built upon the success of the 2013 Myanmar Climate Change Leadership Institute (MLICC) and valuable partnership with Yangon-based NGO, Advancing Life and Regeneration Motherland (ALARM).
From October 31 to November 14, PISA was honored to welcome 14 leaders of Myanmar for the Myanmar Advanced Leadership Institute on Climate Change (MALICC). During the 2-week program, seven civil society leaders and seven government officials learned about climate change’s far-reaching impact from the many perspectives of Washington’s policymakers, non-governmental representatives, academics, scientists and activists. MALICC’s participants represented diverse organizations. The government participants came from seven distinct Bureaus while the civil society leaders represented six leading organizations with missions devoted to sustainable development, community participation, and knowledge dissemination. Diversity among the MALICC participants was cross cutting along ethnic, regional, and expertise lines. However, all shared a common interest in global warming. Each participant was passionate, enthusiastic about making a positive impact, and eager to learn as much as they could during their two weeks in Washington.
While foreign actors have been increasingly active within Myanmar, MALICC enabled rising leaders in Myanmar to form networks abroad. Collaboration and exchange of ideas is one essential element to creating inclusive, sustainable climate change policy. The MALICC program offered Myanmar’s forefront civil society leaders a path-breaking opportunity to directly interact on one on, begin dialogue and establish working relationships with government officials from key Departments. MALICC initiated dialogue and negotiation which will continue beyond the MALICC program. In addition, the delegation openly offered first-hand accounts of Myanmar’s democratization process and development experience to participating experts. PISA’s program not only educated its delegates in substantive knowledge regarding climate change and its effects, but also facilitated training for essential skills for global action such as public speaking, making use of open source data, and multicultural awareness. Each individual was fully aware that the people of Myanmar must take responsibility and guide their country towards the future that they want.
By the program’s closing session, crucial bonds were formed—future links for information sharing, collaboration, and increased understanding among a wide range of perspectives. Both PISA and each MALICC participant are grateful for our sponsors’ contributions and information sessions. We are also thankful for the many individuals who shared their expertise throughout the conference. Each day was packed with meetings, engaging discussion, cultural exchange, and innovative brainstorming. We only hope that this program will spur the next Leadership Institute on Climate Change, and strengthen the legacy of PISA’s and our valued partners’ work to help build capacity to deal with climate change.