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Kumbaya: Making friends (and greeting old ones) at the CSD

In our first day here at the UN CSD on Monday, some Agents had the opportunity to attend a briefing/discussion by the US delegation to the Commission, which includes a face new to the CSD, thought not new to the world of UN Negotiations and those of us who met with him at the 2005 UN Climate Negotiations in Montreal:  Daniel Reifsnyder, new Deputy Associate Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development for the US State Department.

Our encounter with Dan and the rest of the  US Delegation is blogworthy (even belatedly) because we encountered best practices of a different kind than the kind (energy/climate/development/air quality) we usually discuss at the CSD:  In this case, how to successfully broach a potentially contentious topic with a national delegation.

A few of the organizations represented in the meeting were particularly concerned with bringing the Delegation's attention to mountain top removal (MTR), a relatively new form of surface coal mining (heavily practiced in Appalachia) that takes profound tolls on community and ecosystem health.  In addressing the topic to the US Delegation, a representative of these organizations made all the right moves:

--Appeared generally polite, relaxed, and professionally dressed.
-- Appealed to the Delegation's shared values (MTR's impacts on "our nation")
--Articulated a clear and specific position/area of concern ("I'm not here to comment on coal more broadly")
--Used brief local case studies of MTR's impacts (and emphasized the historic importance of Appalachia), as well as graphic comparisons ("the explosive force of MTR is equivalent to...") to illustrate their points
--Repeated a clear key stance several times ("MTR removes jobs, communities, and headwater source streams.  It's not being addressed in the CSD, and it should be."  Help us by raising MTR as an issue within the CSD to raise awareness in all delegations.)
--Anticipated the US Delegation's responses, and demonstrated that they've already tried to use other channels to address their concerns.  (Upon being encouraged to instead address their concerns domestically by talking with their Congresspeople, they explained that they're bringing the issue to the CSD because they've run out of places to go; their politicians are receiving monetary contributions from coal companies and are therefore compelled not to address their concerns as constituents.)

The end result?  An expression of genuine concern from the US Delegation, coupled with a request for more information and further discussion.  Not bad for a first encounter!

We'll let you know how our MTR friends fare over the next week or so, and also keep you updated as we use similar stylings as new negotiating texts hit the floor and the youth caucus heads to the hallways, cafes, plenary sessions and delegation meetings to bring our primary issues of concern--including the problem of nuclear energy for developing countries and the CSD's unfortunate lack of  attention to the issue of climate change adaptation--- to the forefront of these meetings.