UN climate convention 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Representatives of the Jewish National Fund at the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) forged some unexpected friendships during
their two weeks in Durban, South Africa, earlier this month.
booth in the exhibition hall – which was the only booth among the Israeli
delegates to the conference – JNF officials received over 200 visitors from
around 25 countries, including Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Somalia,
according to the director of international relations, Karine
Most of the visitors expressed hopes to continue
communications with the JNF, and possibly study from their experiences combating
desertification and establishing community forests, Bolton-Laor
“It always amazes us, the variety of people who come to visit
and who we would expect to be hostile to us and they’re not. They actually want
to work with us on some level,” she told The Jerusalem Post
Sunday. “It promotes a lot of goodwill.”
The Israeli delegation to
the UNFCCC was led by the Environmental Protection Ministry, but included
participants from several environmental organizations.
The JNF booth in
the conference exhibition hall received a return visitor of particular interest
to the organization, an Iraqi representative from the country’s national
infrastructure ministry who also visited the booth at the previous year’s
convention in Cancun, according to Bolton-Laor.
Accompanying him this
year was a young, modern woman from the Iraqi environment ministry, whom
Bolton-Laor called the “point person” for climate change in the country’s
delegation. While last year JNF did not have the proper manpower to follow up
with such new interests in partnerships, this week Bolton- Laor said she is
already going to be in contact with the Iraqis about potential desertification
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Similar requests came from Afghani and South Sudanese
delegates, and a member of parliament from Somalia also visited the JNF booth
and attended an official side event the group held on forestation.
said, ‘Times are changing, we can do something,’” Bolton-Laor explained, noting
that the Somali delegate wants to push the issues of combating desertification
and water management forward, and is even considering sending Somali
representatives to Israel for training.
The booth also received many
visitors from Japan, China, tropical countries concerned with desertification
and the United States – including a NASA earth scientist who recommended the
institution’s groundwater-detecting satellites to the Israeli delegates,
according to Bolton-Laor.
Prior to the conference, the JNF group members
also discussed potential collaborations with the Catholic Church of South
Africa, which owns huge amounts of land that it intends to use for sustainable
development, she added.
While Bolton-Laor did acknowledge that there were
the occasional snide anti-Israel comments made toward their booth – usually by
European delegates – the majority of the group’s experiences were overwhelmingly
“It was very interesting that all these African and Arab
nations came to us,” she said, “and received us very well.”
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