From Lobbying MPs To Advocating For Human Rights, This M'sian Fights For Climate Justice

Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar co-founded Klima Action Malaysia, an organisation that works to strengthen the ecosystem of climate justice and climate governance in Malaysia.

Cover image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

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Meet Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar, programme director and one of the founders of Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY)

Nadiah speaking at the Stockholm +50 conference in June 2022.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

Nadiah is a young Malaysian who has worked in multiple local and international institutions. Besides her main role with KAMY, Nadiah is also a consultant working in climate policy and risk, as well as business and human rights. 

She has shared her expertise with research organisations and institutions such as ISIS Malaysia, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, European Climate Foundation, Climate Tracker, Stanley Center for Peace and Security, INGKA group's Young Leaders Council and the Swedish MFA international advisory group for the environment, climate, and biodiversity.

As the chairperson of KAMY, Nadiah works with local and Indigenous communities, and champions for their rights, as well as for the environment, here at home and abroad

KAMY climate strike in 2019.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

KAMY is a climate justice and feminist organisation that works tirelessly to strengthen the ecosystem of climate justice and climate governance in Malaysia. Led by young people in the country, they accomplish this through research, lobbying, and civil society empowerment. 

In an interview with SAYS, Nadiah shared, "When it comes to the environment, people always talk about, you know, 'Oh, you're an environmentalist, so you should be working in conservation, you should be planting trees and saving wildlife.'

"But no, working within the environmental justice lens, you work a lot with people, you mobilise people to organise themselves. So, that is the important difference here."

She added, "I think a lot of people from outside the environmental movement don't understand much, but we work on a lot of intersectional issues on gender, on Indigenous rights, on various other issues.

"So, for example, the inequity between the Global North and Global South, because the Global North or these northern countries in developed nations are trying to enforce their laws, their ways of thinking — even their waste, they send it to us."

During her time studying environmental science, Nadiah noticed how the deterioration of our environment is closely linked to social injustices happening around the country, setting her fight for climate justice into motion

Submission of the Pertahankan Hutan Simpan Kuala Langat Utara (PHSKLU) memorandum to the Menteri Besar of Selangor.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

Nadiah explained, "Environmental degradation is not just purely an environmental problem, it's a problem of human rights, it's a problem of violations of our rights to have a healthy environment to live in, you know, having clean air, clean water, those kinds of rights. And, of course, this also relates to some of the experiences that I have working with the Indigenous community."

But it was when Nadiah heard the grim news detailed in the United Nations' 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C that made it almost impossible for her not to act.

"My atmospheric scientist professor, he gave us a space to discuss this or our feelings, what we thought about the report.

"At that point, all of my classmates, we shared the same thought that this report is appalling because we are facing the next mass extinction of, you know, us, the human civilisation… and not much has been done on that, to not only mitigate, but also to, of course, avoid and try to create a better world," the climate activist said.

Nadiah told SAYS working with KAMY has offered many lessons, like an understanding of how a people's movement should look like from a youth perspective

Youth & The Climate Crisis: Ambassadors For Change, in partnership with Amnesty International Malaysia.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

According to Nadiah, it is important for Malaysians to understand that young people should be respected, as well as given space and trust to meet any kind of people's movement.

"I think it's really incredible to see in the past few years how young people have stepped up incredibly, as well as collaborating together with vulnerable people so that vulnerable people can represent themselves instead of having others to represent them in decision-making tables," Nadiah said.

Explaining further, she added, "These are not stories, but I think they are definitely lessons for me to understand that youth should not be tokenised. I think they bring real value and real solutions. And for that, they should be respected for their leadership, which a lot of people don't really do, [they] don't really respect young leaders."

Asia Feminist Convening 2022.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

From digital advocacy to leading programmes centred on Indigenous people, coalition building, gender, women, and climate, as well as rights-based approaches and accountability, KAMY has come a long way since its inception

Climate March Glasgow COP26, November 2021.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

This includes notching some big wins with programmes like Weaving Hopes for the Future and Gabungan Darurat Iklim Malaysia (GDIMY).

The former is a platform for indigenous youth and women from Peninsular Malaysia. It comprises 20 people from the UK and Malaysia, as well as 15 Indigenous youth and women. With support from British Council Malaysia, Weaving Hopes for the Future was established so that members could meaningfully participate in the UNFCCC Climate Negotiations COP26 in Glasgow, which took place last year.

According to Nadiah, "It's actually the biggest climate conference every year. Last year, we held exhibitions, we had movie screenings, and we had our members who went there in the negotiation spaces.

"It was one of the biggest achievements that we had at that point last year. Of course, we brought in the Indigenous peoples' perspective to the ground to COP, and that was the first time we had an Orang Asli from Peninsular Malaysia to be there to participate meaningfully."

In 2022, KAMY began documentation of the Indigenous tribe in Rompin with community screening and local exhibitions to foster dialogue around climate governance and Indigenous knowledge.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

Meanwhile, Nadiah counts the work with GDIMY as another recent achievement

August 2022 Climate Roundtable.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

It successfully lobbied 77 members of Parliament to endorse the programme's Flood Statement before the special flood parliamentary session to address the flooding in December last year.

She explained, "Decision-making should include people who are affected. So, in most of the decision-making, when it comes to policy, top-down from governance — governance is always the same kind of people who comes up with this information, but where are the voices of the people? Where are the voices from vulnerable communities?

"If they are not there, then there's a high, high chance that this policy will fail, because you will have the same groups falling through the cracks."

But it doesn't stop there. GDIMY's next goal is to get full traction on the Climate Change Act in Malaysia.

September 2022 Climate Change Symposium.

Image via Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar (Provided to SAYS)

Nadiah noted, "We've been doing a lot of lobbying and advocacy on it. We hope that next year, we'll have a clearer framework of what climate change is looking at.

"Normally, acts like this will take years to be tabled at Parliament. But we want a shortcut because you already see destruction everywhere. We can't wait another five years. We have to get it done. That's the target we are working on. Not only us, but also with other groups in Malaysia."

You can learn more about Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY) and its programmes from its website, Instagram page, or Medium account

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