Just one day after handing in my dissertation for my master degree in Oxford I found myself on an airplane to Geneva. Yes, my position with WWF was in Switzerland, working as a Youth Volunteer for WWF International, based in Gland. I worked in the ‘Hot House’, part of the Global and Regional Policy unit within International. The Hot House is a ‘political intelligence’ unit seeking out opportunities to engage with heads of state and important ministers to convince them of the importance of signing an ambitious, fair and legally-binding agreement on climate change at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The work in the Hot House was incredibly interesting, fast-paced and relevant for conservation. I was collecting and reading studies published on climate change (you wouldn’t believe how many come out every week!), scoping the news for the latest political declarations on climate change and related issues, and doing web research on a variety of climate change related topics. I wrote political interest briefs with talking points for some of the WWF leaders to use in high-level bilateral meetings with heads of state and environment ministers during the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the UNFCCC negotiations in Barcelona. And I even got to write speech notes for our climate team leader to address all the WWF CEO’s at a special dinner in Switzerland. Quite a variety of activities!
On top of all the interesting things I was doing at WWF I also got the opportunity to explore Switzerland. It may not be particularly tropical or far-away (at least in my case, coming from the Netherlands), but it sure is incredibly beautiful. During my stay here I have had the great pleasure to discover the many fabulous things this small country has to offer: the mountains, Lake Geneva, the vineyards, the charming towns along the lake, the people, the cheese, the chocolate, the wine… I loved it all.
And on to Copenhagen...
At the end of my volunteer placement I got the opportunity to travel to the climate summit in Copenhagen where I supported my colleagues at WWF to help them arrange meetings between the top WWF people and the environment ministers, in a final effort to push for a strong climate deal. It was really amazing to be present at the climate summit, to see how such large scale environment negotiations are taking place, and how WWF works to influence the talks. I was impressed and inspired by all the hard work and dedication of all the people at WWF - and of many other NGOs - who gave everything to try and get the best possible deal. It was incredibly hard work, but a great experience and I am grateful to have been a part of it.