Time for feedback

June 12, 2010

Below is a short article which summarises some of what happened at the WPCCC.

We are currently working on a booklet that will provide a much more extended analysis and draw on interviews we carried out in Bolivia. It should be available in early July, more info to follow. Please email us, (ayya [at] riseup.net) if you would like to know when it is available.

We are also giving various feedback events, please see here for details or get in touch with us to arrange something.

The People’s Accord- Carving a fresh path?

I was lucky enough to attend the first World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights (WPCCC), that took place in Bolivia, between 18th-22nd April. It was called by Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous President, in response to the failure of Copenhagen and aimed, ”to organise a worldwide coalition of social movements, NGOs and civil society with a common purpose.”1 Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism, (MAS) were bought to power in 2006 with massive support from the unions and peasant farmers movements and surely, no other head of state could have mobilised 35 000 people from more than 140 countries to attend.

The summit produced a powerful nine page ‘People’s Accord’ – a beacon of hope in the dark world of climate negotiations. It identifies capitalism as the main structural cause of climate change, whilst setting out an ambitious raft of proposals which would oblige those countries historically responsible for emissions to act. The Accord opens, “Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger.” It proposes:; 1) Binding 50% emissions cuts on 1990 levels between 2012-2017 2) An international court for climate crime implementing the Rights of the Earth 3) No market based mechanisms (including the controversial REDD scheme, which brings the carbon markets into the issue of deforestation 4) Sustainable models of agriculture for food sovereignty 5) That those forcibly displaced by climate change are protected.

The WPCCC embodied participation with seventeen open working groups. It was a world away from the UN climate negotiations, of deals made behind closed doors and repression meted out to protesters. The eight ALBA2 countries, which include Bolivia and Venezuela, will use the People’s Accord as the basis of their negotiations at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, this December.

The summit was a rich and unique experience for social movement organisers to meet face to face and to strategise, but it remains to be seen how the declaration will be received and acted upon.

The local context

Bolivian glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, threatening the water supply in two major cities. I met people from all over the region who are experiencing the effects of climate change. Effects they played very little part in causing and that will be exacerbated by the country’s poverty. This summit has given a global dimension to ALBA’s demands for climate justice. But this highlights a contradiction. The ‘progressive’ political projects of the ALBA governments are based on redistributing the profits from fossil fuel extraction. Can they credibly promote this declaration while continuing in the same manner?

At the 18th working group, outside the main summit, the contradictions between the discourse of Mother Earth Rights and the capitalist production model still prevalent in Latin America were bought to the fore. Communities who are suffering water shortages, displacement and pollution spoke out against the mega projects, mines and deforestation being pursued across the region and called for an entirely different model of managing natural resources. Participant in the 18th working group, Pablo Regalski said, “Thousands of people have come to Bolivia because they think there is a new model beginning here. We wanted to show the problems in changing between the new model, and the old model-the capitalist, extractivist model. Of course mining fossil fuels is part of the transition to a new model, but we need to discuss it.”

To me, the tensions between social movements and the state in this transition is the key message from the conference. Bolivia stands as an example of what people can achieve when they organise. Significantly, the WPCCC was held in Cochabamba, a city which embodies popular power against corporate globalisation. In 2000, The ‘Cochabamba Water Wars’ saw mass protests against the privatisation of the municipal water supply. The private consortium was forced out and the water company went into public control. Marcela Olivera, an local organiser explained, The conflict was not just about water; it was about something else – what we call democracy. It was about who decides about the things that matter to us.” Bolivians have kicked out multinational corporations and bought down governments – all organised from the grassroots and now they are warning us that governments alone cannot make the radical changes required to deal with climate change.

Whilst we celebrate the breadth of the People’s Accord we must remember that this declaration is the start, not the end, of a process. Briefly it has amplified the social movements’ demands, locally defined solutions and spiritual understandings of the relationship with the earth that are so often marginalised. The ongoing struggle will be to make those with vested interests really begin to listen and act upon what is being said.

Watch Marcela Olivera on Democracy Now

1. Pablo Solon, Bolivia Ambassador to the UN

2Boliviarian Alliance for the Americas

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