Based on our successes at the COP conferences in 2015 and 2016, and given how fast the Arctic Ocean ice was melting, we knew we needed to step up our work with the United Nations and move MAPS forward with fierce love and determination. It was time to call leaders more urgently than ever to commit to our collective good. This meant going to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), as well as to the next COP.
Karen took the lead reaching out to countries and UN bodies looking for a way to get MAPS on the UNGA agenda on short notice. Courageous and committed, working around her busy timetable as a neurologist on call, she didn’t take no for an answer.
As a result, when Darcy joined Karen and Vandana at the UN Headquarters in New York for UNGA 72 in September 2017 (each on their own time and expense), most officials there knew about MAPS and our team was able to build key connections. Vandana made a presentation that raised our profile among several other NGOs and led to MAPS being featured in a Forbes Magazine article.
This built ever-growing momentum for Darcy’s next big trip: to Bonn, Germany in November 2017 for COP 23.
Bonn’s meeting rooms had a distinctly tropical feel. COP’s president that year was Fiji and the concerns of small island developing states (SIDS) were much more prominent. Darcy reported to us:
There was a remarkable receptivity to MAPS among those in attendance at COP 23 compared to COP 21 and COP 22. Many nations, particularly the Small Island Developing States, are fearful that the pace of progress will not be sufficient to avoid catastrophic losses of all kinds (human life and suffering, economic, infrastructure, culture, food and water supply, etc.). It is these “at risk” nations who seem to be at a level of readiness to be the first to sign the MAPS Treaty.
Over eleven non-stop days in Bonn, Darcy connected with representatives of 25 UN member states, several key UN staff, and countless members of civil society. He shared information about MAPS and the work of Parvati.org in a panel presentation called “Disappearing Islands” for the Pacific Island Development Forum. This generated more interest among several member states to support the MAPS Treaty. He also reached out to other NGOs and global brands.
Some of the meetings had been scheduled before Darcy left for Bonn with the help of Karen and the other Treaty volunteers, but the vast majority arose organically as a result of Darcy’s determined efforts on site, in service to MAPS.
At the conference, Mitchell Beer, whom Darcy had met at COP 22, interviewed him quickly. We loved Darcy’s brief answers illustrating life at COP:
How many UN climate conferences have you attended? 3
Up to three adjectives to describe a COP? Intense, marathon, inspiring
On average, how many hours of sleep do you get while the COP is under way? 4-5
How many cups of coffee do you drink? 1 (which is 1 more than usual)
How many kilometres do you walk per day? 10
Biggest difference between the COP and the rest of your work? This is about the survival of humanity on the planet. My day job is very satisfying to me, but the consequences are not nearly the same.
Between the COP and the real world? Unlike the regular world, there’s a very clear sense of purpose among the people at the COP.
Soon after COP 23, Darcy’s hard work combined with the outreach of our treaty volunteers bore fruit: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa became the first signatory on the MAPS Treaty.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said, “Samoa is pleased to support the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS) Treaty. For us this treaty, along with the Oceans Pathway, reflects the richness of the oceans in biodiversity and their significant role in regulating temperatures, as well as the need to protect our planet’s cooling system so as to stabilize climate and sea levels. Small islands states like Samoa which are on the frontlines of the impacts of climate change see MAPS as a realizable solution to addressing pivotal climate change issues.”
Parvati.org did what no NGO has ever done before by creating an international treaty for Arctic Ocean protection. With this historic signature, the process of MAPS’s entry into force had begun.