Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Pacific Indigenist Perspective on the Copenhagen Climate Conference 2009 ECD

[image is from here]
All that follows is a repost from an Indigenist Intelligence Review blogpost here. With many thanks to all who work so hard and report to that blog. URL:

Copenhagen Day 6 & 7 Report: A Pacific Perspective

Talofa all,

As we come to the end of the first week in Copenhagen, we look back with somewhat a degree of satisfaction as a Pacific Islander here watching the process unfold from an observer's perspective. Whilst most of the discussions this week have been held in closed doors with many of us in the indigenous peoples caucus being excluded from taking part directly, we have nevertheless continued with our own corridor and outside work engaging in lobbying activities and involved in the Klimaforum09 civil society conference giving presentations to the rest of the world represented there on the issues about climate change that are relevant for our Pacific and Indigenous peoples.

As Indigenous Peoples, we took part yesterday in leading the more than 100,000 protesters marching for some more than 6 hours in the very cold streets of Copenhagen to Belle Center where the official negotiations are taken place in demonstration about the lack of progress in heeding the clear science about the urgency with which this meeting needed to address climate change. Malia Nobrega and myself were joined by our colleague Sina Brown-Davis from Aotearoa but resident in Melbourne Australia in the protest march and we hope we did our Pacific constituency justice in being your representatives in this international advocacy activity.

Malia and I also met the Ulu of Tokelau, His Excellency Foua Toloa, who I understand is here as part of the New Zealand delegation to lobby observer status of Tokelau in the Association of Small Islands States (AOSIS), and allegedly receiving a TV crew assistance from the Danish government to take advantage of the opportunity in Copenhagen to speak out for his small island and peoples now suffering serious impacts of climate change. I was privileged to have been part of his TV interviews as I expressed with him the privilege of having this opportunity to join more than 100,000 global protesters as a voice and representative of our voiceless peoples in the Pacific who are in the forefront of the impacts of climate change yet contributed negligibly to the causes.

There were also other opportunities which I took with a number of television crews from climate justice supporters interested in our Pacific situation and I was able to speak about our issues as Pacific countries affected by climate change and shared our concerns with their audiences on things like false solutions as in geo-engineering such as ocean fertilization in the Pacific ocean; lack of political will in the current negotiation process to take serious actions to curb climate change despite the clear urgency called by the sciences; the unacceptable process of shifting liability by the developed countries to developing in terms of commitments already made in UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol; the denouncing of the attempts by Annex 1 (developed countries) parties to kill the Kyoto Protocol; the importance for all parties to be sincere and genuine about the spirit of the Bali Action Plan and its building blocks; the need to heed the call of Indigenous Peoples as well as ensuring their rights in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples UNDRIP, are given due respect and recognition.

Whilst the Indigenous Peoples were very vocal singing, chanting and marching about our issues during the march, more than 900 campaigners were arrested and police have been accused of overreacting to sporadic street violence as many protesters urged conference delegates to work out a legally binding deal to tackle climate change.

I said that as a Pacific Islander, I feel somewhat encouraged in the activities of the last week, and this is because of the leading role that the chief negotiator of Tuvalu takes the drivers seat in this United Nations Forum for Climate Change, UNFCC, process and is turning into the little island nation that could just be the game changer in these talks. After making headlines at least twice this week about insisting for a legally binding outcome from Copenhagen, Tuvalu again in the plenary meeting of the resumed COP yesterday made an impassioned plea, which many observers immediately called the signature moment of the talks thus far. In an earnest, emotional address, lead negotiator Ian Fry called on the United States Senate and President Obama directly.

To paraphrase:

"I understand that we are waiting for the U.S. Senate. It seems the fate of the world lies in the hands of a few U.S. senators. It is difficult that we are waiting for one country to decide before the international community can move forward. President Obama was currently in Sweden accepting a Nobel Prize, whether rightly or wrongly. For him to honor his Nobel Prize, he should address the greatest threat to humanity, climate change, and the greatest threat to human security, climate change."

He defended his standing firmly in the way of consensus, demanding that the legally-binding nature of a deal be discussed in open sessions, not closed door backrooms. Fry urged that the entire population of Tuvalu lives within 2 meters of sea level, that their very existence as a nation is at stake, and that he isn't trying to embarrass anyone, cause trouble, or make a show, but merely serve the people of Tuvalu and protect their future. With tears in his eyes, Fry closed saying: - "I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that’s not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands". As a Pacific Islander and an Indigenous representative of the Pacific, I feel very touched and agree with a number of my colleagues who have suggested that it is time we seriously consider proposing an international human rights recognition for this courageous climate justice defender of the Pacific small island countries.

Yesterday, Saturday 12 December, was International Indigenous Peoples Day. To celebrate this, the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and Tebtebba organized a day of activities in cooperation with the International Indigenous Peoples' Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) where the President of the Sami Parliament (see footnote below), Head of the Greenland delegation in Copenhagen, a Canadian Inuit Environmental Human Rights Activist, and Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) addressed the members of the IIPFCC. A series of workshops and panel discussions took place in the areas of climate change and human rights; forests, biodiversity and climate change; Indigenous Peoples' traditional knowledge and western science on climate change; conversion and tensions; Indigenous' Peoples Local adaptation and mitigation measures; and closing at 5.00pm with messages and reports from the various workshops. Malia and I were only able to participate in the morning sessions before we joined the protest march for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Today is Sunday the 7th day of the conference and as the leaders arrive, we as observers will find it impossible to penetrate the securities that surround the Belle Center and we will do our best to work with our sources that are in the official delegation to keep updating you on what will transpire during this important week for all of us in the Pacific.

As we head into these final few days, I can only pray that the man of our time, President Obama of the USA, will be the agent of change, as he alone seem to be the saviour for climate change; the person that has the capacity to fill all the gaps in these negotiations; the one to ensure that there will be a meaningful outcome of Copenhagen for Pacific Island Countries, Small Islands Developing States, Indigenous Peoples, and many of our developing countries; and the signs are there with this great man to heed the urgency with which the science is saying to take serious actions to address the disastrous impacts of climate change. At least all his speeches on this issue point to that, and the fact that there are already some change in the USA leading negotiator's attitude to allow language on UNDRIP, safeguards, reference to indigenous peoples in the latest draft text on AWG-LCA 8 item 3 on REDD and REDD plus that came out yesterday, I am hopeful that the analogy of the Saviour of the World is not far from the truth when Obama makes his visit to Copenhagen later this week to ensure that the outcome of Copenhagen will indeed be worthwhile for all of us.

With my best regards from Copenhagen.

Executive Director of Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI) - Samoa
Pacific Indigenous Representative to Copenhagen

(Note: The Sami people, also spelled Sámi, or Saami, (also known as Lapps, although this term is considered derogatory) are one of the indigenous people of northern Europe inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia but also in the border area between south and middle Sweden. Their ancestral lands span an area the size of Sweden in the Nordic countries. The Sami people are among the largest indigenous ethnic groups in Europe. Their traditional languages are the Sami languages, which are classified as members of the Finno-Lappic group of the Uralic language family)

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