By GIANINA SCHWANECKE, DER SPIEGEL
Hughes spends her spare time breeding and caring for an almost extinct species of unicorn; so far she has helped grow a herd of six unicorns.
Interview with Madi Hughes, GreenPeace
At the back of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), one may find Madi Hughes, Greenpeace delegate and defender of the environment. Hughes agreed to discuss the difficulties that Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) face in influencing member states at the United Nations (UN), and the challenges of advocating for the environment.
When asked about the role Greenpeace plays in international politics, Hughes said, “We are a representative of the environment. The planet can’t advocate for itself and so we help give them a voice.”
For the most part Hughes said that she has found people to be generally receptive. She highlights the importance of countries working together and also with NGOs.
‘’People are looking to gain the support of organizations like Greenpeace to gain further votes,” she explains.
In part this relates to the knowledge gap which many NGOs fill. “People come to us with questions, lots of questions. They treat us as an impartial source of knowledge.”
The question remains as to whether they should be seen as such.
Regarding the challenge she currently faces in working on Geoengineering in UNEP, Hughes said, “It’s a new field; there’s a need to establish regulation before ploughing ahead and causing more damage.”
Such environmental issues have the power to bring countries together in multilateral cooperation, but it requires the backing of key players like the United States.
‘’There’s a total disregard for the environment in many states. It’s not that they intentionally want to do harm, but they want to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. And they don’t want to change anything,” Hughes said, with a frustrated sigh.
The US poses a new challenge amid international fears that their internally focused, “America First” policy shift will hinder future multilateral approaches. When pushed on the issue, Hughes’ only response was to shake her head and agree with the voiced concerns.