As Dominicans, we preach through our words and actions using a style of collaboration and constructive dialogue called disputatio. Disputatio allows us to engage in honest conversation with others, entering the space with respect and honesty in order to learn from one another and share our Gospel values.
Recently, I learned of the tradition of Talanoa practiced in Fiji and other Pacific Island societies. Talanoa is similar to disputatio in that it is a way to engage in dialogue in a transparent, honest, and respectful way. The foundation of Talanoa is to tell stories by sharing hearts and giving space to all participants.
While this is a beautiful tradition and a great way to engage with those we interact with, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this was the foundation for dialogue the United Nations was using at the 23rd Conference of the Parities to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23 UNFCCC). COP23 was held in Bonn, Germany with Fiji presiding over the conference this year. For the last 23 years, parties of the UNFCCC have gathered to implement the framework and deal with climate change. You may recall that COP21 was held in Paris and resulted in the Paris Agreement.
This year, COP23 dealt with the technicalities of implementing and financing the Paris Agreement. Just in the last two months, Nicaragua and Syria have signed on to the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only country not participating. While the withdrawal by the United States and the COP23 agenda of finances could have been a hindrance to progress, the tradition of Talanoa provided the space for all to express their needs and concerns frankly while being heard by others. This dialogue style focuses on the common good, which is crucial when discussing global climate change.
There is still a great deal of work to be done to curb climate change, and time is not on our side. Yet this COP23 convention gave glimmers of hope and, with the tradition of Talanoa, it brought countries of the world together to work together for the good of all. That’s positive news we can share!