Dec 6, 2012

COP 18 Doha: Appadurai ban lifted but youth, civil society voices marginalized

According to recent reports from the UN Climate Conference in Doha, now in its final week, the activities of youth delegates, the press and civil society representatives have been significantly curtailed.

A Common Dreams article quotes an IPS reporter named Stephen Leahy:

For no obvious reason, security at the meeting known as COP 18 is very strict. Worse, the much smaller than usual contingent of participants from civil society is under a number of restrictions. No posters. No flyers. No demonstrations except in designated locations well away from the negotiations. When allowed to speak at official sessions, civil society organizations' (CSO) speaking time has been cut in half to a single minute.

The article also quotes Anjali Appadurai, the College of the Atlantic student who delivered the "Get it Done!" speech at COP 17 in Durban. She said: "CSOs and youth are being pushed to the margins here... We represent the broader public. Our input should be valued, but it's not at this COP."

In Durban in 2011, Appadurai issued a powerful wake-up call. She told negotiators:

What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money? You’ve been negotiating all my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises. But you’ve heard this all before.

Appadurai was also involved in an occupy action and incurred a penalty for her efforts. She was "de-badged" and was required to go through a re-accreditation process. UN security banned her from this year's conference in Doha, but a Twitter campaign and an appeal to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres helped toward her reinstatement.

The UN allows for activism but sees its place as fairly defined. Appadurai: "The U.N. has a really specific set of guidelines for what youth are allowed to do and what kind of actions we’re allowed to take. So we’re technically allowed to protest; it’s just in a very sort of constricted space."

A Guardian article on the conference notes that:

Youth NGOs have some rights, as part of Youngo, the official youth constituency at the UN. They can make a limited number of speeches, or interventions to delegates and are allowed to do peaceful "actions".

But if they go too far they are liable to be "de-badged" and thrown out like Appadurai in Durban.

Appadurai is in Doha working with Third World Network (TWN) and on behalf of her delegation, Earth in Brackets - run by students from the College of the Atlantic.

Her bold call for action in Durban spoke for the many who have had it with the politicking and procrastination surrounding climate change. As news of disasters make the headlines more frequently, it makes you wonder what scale of a disaster it will take to bring about the type of commitment that has been sorely lacking.

It isn't about scaremongering... the scientific data tells us we are headed toward an uncertain future in which climate change-related disasters will threaten millions around the globe. As it stands action taken - for example in the area of emission cutting - is seen by some scientists as too little, too late. There is now a fifth more carbon in the atmosphere than in 2000 with little evidence that global emissions are dropping.

Of this year's conference Appadurai says "... it’s if anything, more urgent this year. This year, we’re seeing that if we have a weak deal, and if negotiators agree to a weak deal that’s going to lock in a decade of inaction, we’re going to condemn them. All of civil society is going to condemn any negotiator or minister or politician who agrees to a weak deal."