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Groups Protest U.N. Climate Summit for Shutting Out Civil Society

Cross-posted from Democracy Now!

As the Cancún climate talks headed toward a conclusion on Friday, civil society groups spoke out against what they said was a flawed United Nations process. As the talks wrapped up inside the conference rooms of Cancún’s luxurious Moon Palace resort, civil society groups protested the process—and found themselves increasingly iced out. John Hamiton files a report from Cancún.

To view Democracy Now’s coverage of the protests, click here

Photo Caption: Youth joined Global Justice Ecology Project in occupying the Moon Palace–site of the UN Climate Negotiations to protest the silencing of civil society voices at COP16 in Cancun.  Photo by Langelle/GJEP-GFC


Statement on the Silencing of Dissent within the UNFCCC

— Global Justice Ecology Project —

Global Justice Ecology Project took action today to protest the silencing of dissent within the UN Climate negotiations. Anyone whose interests do not reflect those of the global elite is being marginalized, ignored and shut out of the talks.

In Copenhagen, dissent was criminalized and activists charged with terrorism for organizing the “Reclaim Power” protest. Here we are seeing a continuation of this trend with a zero-tolerance policy for dissenting voices.

Global Justice Ecology Project also undertook this action in memory of Lee Kyung Hae, the South Korean Farmer and La Via Campesina member who martyred himself at the in protest against the WTO here seven years ago. In 2003 the fight was against the repressive trade policies of the WTO. Today the struggle is against the repressive position of the UNFCCC, which has become the World Carbon Trade Organization, and is forcing developing countries to accept policies that go against the interests of their citizens and the majority of the world’s inhabitants.

REDD – the scheme of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation that is being pushed through here, despite widespread concern about the human rights and ecological catastrophe it may bring, is a prime example of the kind of market-driven, top down policies of the UNFCCC that will allow business as usual to continue beyond all natural limits. These unjust policies will severely impact forest-dependent and indigenous peoples, campesinos, and marginalized peoples across the world.

From before the opening of COP16 in Cancun on November 29, through to the final moments, the atmosphere at COP16 has been one of marked by exclusion, marginalization, and silencing of voices.

When the UNFCCC’s negotiating text was released on 24 November, all language fromm the Cochabamba People’s Agreement – a document developed by 35,000 people– had been removed. In its place, was a warmed version of the unjust Copenhagen Accord.

Arriving in Cancun, UN climate conference participants found an armed citadel, a civil society space set literally miles away from the negotiations, inflated prices and hours of travel daily. For NGOs and civil society groups, as well as for the smaller and less economically empowered delegations from the less developed countries, such obstacles are crippling.

Activists and representatives from civil society have been systematically excluded from the meetings and even expelled from the UNFCCC itself. When voices have been raised in Cancun, badges have been stripped. Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network lost one precious day of negotiations due to the suspension of his badge for simply speaking in public. Youth delegates were barred for spontaneously taking action against a permitting process for protests made unwieldy and inaccessible.  NGO delegates were banned from the Moon Palace simply for filming these protests.

The exclusion and silencing of civil society voices here at COP16 in Cancun mirrors the larger exclusion and silencing here of the majority of people – indigenous people, women, youth, small farmers, developing countries– whose position does not reflect that of the global elite.

This is why, in solidarity with our allies from oppressed communities in the North and the South, we took action to demand justice in the climate negotiations.