The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Norwich Christian speaks at UN climate summit

Copenhagen BF base2009: One of the youngest speakers at the Copenhagen climate conference has been a 23-year-old student from Norwich.


On Monday 14 December Melissa Ilboudo gave a 15-minute presentation in a side meeting on adapting to climate change. She was the only person speaking in English during a one-and-a-half hour session led by the delegation from Burkina Faso.


During Monday the African nations had called a temporary boycott of the talks, as a protest over lack of progress. However, negotiatons resumed in the evening in time for Burkina Faso to present its views.


Melissa, who worships at Norwich Family Life Church, felt it was important to bring a positive message of hope. 'I am here as a Christian,' she said.


Melissa showed pictures from two of Christian Aid's projects in the dry northern region of Burkina Faso, which have successfully turned desert back into productive agricultural land. The same day she was speaking, Christian Aid became the largest UK development agency to win the Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management Standard (HAP). The award was based on its work in Burkina Faso and India. 


Copenhagen Melissa and NatashaAs the talks moved towards a climax, the Burkinabe delegation rose at 5am and worked late into the night. Because of her excellent command of English, Melissa has been kept busy translating papers.


On Wednesday President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso arrived to give a speech and a press conference. He was one of 125 heads of state flying in for the last days of the summit.


'The negotiations are getting tight,' wrote Melissa that evening. 'People do not seem to agree.'


Dr Natasha Grist from the Overseas Development Institute (pictured right), who also lives in Norwich, worked alongside Melissa at the conference. On Saturday 12 December she gave a presentation on rural development and agriculture.


Earlier in December churches in Norfolk reached their target of an appeal which Melissa had launched for the Evangelical Development Association in Burkina Faso.


The European Union has now made a further offer to quadruple any donations for Reseau Marp, a Christian Aid partner which Melissa featured at the summit. This is reclaiming agricultural land further north towards the desert. Anyone wishing to support this appeal can send cheques c/o Eldred Willey to Christian Aid, the Kings Centre, King Street, Norwich NR1 1PH.

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