The Resolve for UNEA-4

It was the middle of the night in Vancouver, Monday morning in Kenya, and the online meetings for the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) were about to begin. I sat at my desk in tears, trying to make sense of the news that Darcy was gone. I had spent a surreal Sunday confirming that I would attend, via videoconference, all of the meetings Darcy had lined up at UNEA-4.

I thought back to how Darcy and I had no sooner arrived home from COP 24 last December than we learned had received Official Observer status from the UN Environment Assembly. This meant we could now participate in UNEA-4 in March to advocate for MAPS. Darcy didn’t hesitate. He started preparing right away, writing customized letters to the environment ministers of every country in the world to request meetings. Along with Karen, he coordinated our growing group of MAPS Ambassadors in Africa, and selected several MAPS Ambassadors to attend UNEA-4 with him.

Darcy next emailed our larger group of volunteers, to enlist help to secure meetings. He wrote, “As we know, we get the best results when we connect with people at a heart level and build a relationship with them. UNEA-4 affords us a tremendous opportunity to get face to face with influential government officials. Please help me capture their attention between now and UNEA-4. A few calls per day to a few countries by each of us. That’s all we need. You should also know that there are wonderful volunteer teams on the ground in Africa coordinating grassroots events. The combination of their bottom-up work and our top-down work will produce beautiful results.”

Then he concluded the letter, “I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It gives me strength and courage to know that you’ve got my back.”

On receiving Darcy’s request, many volunteers worked tirelessly to set up meetings. Darcy was making calls too, in the wee hours of the night and early morning and whenever he could fit in a spare moment around his work day. Several meetings were scheduled, and several more were promised, when Darcy left for the airport in the evening on Friday, March 8, 2019.

Something made me reach out to him that night as he began the long trip from Denver to Nairobi. My heart swelled with gratitude as I texted him, “I hope you have an excellent trip, Darcy. Thank you for being there for all of us.”  The response came: “Thanks. Just in the DEN airport waiting to catch the red eye.” Focused and matter-of-fact, Darcy was a man on a mission.

I was devastated to learn that Darcy had been aboard the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on its way to Nairobi. The only clarity I had at the time was to do my utmost to keep all his commitments at UNEA-4. We considered my flying to Kenya in his stead, but I would not arrive in time. So I agreed to meetings by videoconference.

Karen helped send emails, and coordinated with our MAPS Ambassadors, guiding them as best she could as to how to move forward at UNEA-4 without the man who had brought them together. With her invaluable support and that of our MAPS Ambassadors in Nairobi, all of the meetings Darcy had worked so hard to set up went ahead. In Darcy’s name, by the end of UNEA-4, we had met with representatives from 19 countries.

The seeds for the 99 signatures required on the MAPS Treaty, so lovingly sown by Darcy through his years of dedicated and selfless service to the greater good, are showing life. He now leaves MAPS to us to bring to fruition. Darcy did not hesitate to serve, and we won’t either. A healthy world is possible. Everyone has the right to know this. I have already booked my flights to the Climate Action Pacific Partnership Conference in Fiji at the end of April to follow up Darcy’s attendance last summer, and to COP 25 in Chile in December.

And Darcy, it sure gives me strength and courage to know you’ve got my back.

By Vandana Ryder, Founding Member and General Counsel,