Conversations on climate change
Malini Mehra, Founder and Chief Executive Officer Centre for Social Markets, India Class of 2009
In 2010, there were catastrophic floods in India and Pakistan. They were of truly epic proportions and 20 million people were displaced. The provinces of Punjab and Sind were especially badly struck. I felt a personal affinity – I’m a Punjabi – but also a more basic humanitarian instinct to “do something”. This aligned with my professional interest on climate change and building resilience to climate risk. At the World Economic Forum on India that year, I suggested that we take action; I found that people were receptive to the idea, particularly a fellow YGL, Saleem Ali.
Along with other Indian and Pakistani YGLs, Saleem and I led an initiative focused on fostering Indian-Pakistani cooperation on climate change with the aim of addressing the economic, political and humanitarian dimensions of climate risk shared by both nations. A university in Lahore, LUMS, agreed to host our debut conference in 2011. We managed to put together a fantastic programme with more than 200 participants including academics, policy-makers, civil society and politicians. There was a fair amount of media interest and YGL Munizae Jahangir hosted a special TV show on Indian-Pakistani issues. The event’s success was largely down to the incredible effort that the Pakistani YGLs put into outreach and logistics – including basic things like getting visas for Indian participants, a major diplomatic issue. One YGL, Umar Saif of LUMS, was visited by four separate security agencies to find out why some Indians were visiting!
One of the speakers at the conference, Yana Abu-Talab, was a colleague from an old partner organization of mine, Ecopeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME). We’d invited Yana to share the extraordinary role that FoEME’s Good Water Neighbours programme had played in the Jordan River Basin shared between Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Yana demonstrated that in this part of the Middle East – a long-standing hotbed of conflict – communities had managed to come together across the three borders and cooperate on managing a precious resource: water. We wanted to show that if this can happen in such a conflict-ridden part of the world, it can happen in our part of the world. This example really inspired people – as we had hoped it would – and has led to follow-up action.
We’re now in the second phase of the project where we have entered into a partnership with EcoPeace/ FoEME, and intend to use the Good Water Neighbours model to inspire a community-led water management and climate change cooperation initiative, a Punjab2Punjab, between the two Punjabs. We’ve been exploring partnerships with a range of players in the contiguous Punjabs and are busy fundraising. All the players are lined up – including the Third Pole Initiative – but we just need the funds secured, and then the floodgates to action will open. We’re looking for even more YGLs to get involved in this initiative – especially from the Middle East and our own region in South Asia.
“The YGL programme has provided me a rare opportunity to connect with professionals such as Malini who share common ideals. The convening power of the World Economic Forum has allowed us to collaborate and bring novel approaches to peace-building to the attention of policy-makers.”
Director and Professor,
Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining
The University of Queensland, Australia
Class of 2011