When you walk into both the Cancun Messe and the Moon Palace there are information stalls set up giving information on Durban as the host city for COP 17. Despite only recently being announced as the host of this mega conference, Durban has already put up a website for COP 17 which you can find here (it’s worth taking a look – this conference is massive, and the fact that it’s coming to South Africa and Durban is no small deal).
I have been told that the International Convention Centre in Durban can more than deal with the numbers of people expected to come to COP 17 (thousands), but also that there is an exhibition centre right across the road for civil society to use.
I’m hoping that will solve the problem facing us in Cancun of complete separation between the negotiators and civil society i.e. the people who are here to lobby/protest/inform/engage with the process. Although officially all registered participants can go to both the Messe and the Moon Palace, the twenty minute bus ride between the two venues effectively means that most people are either in one venue or the other during the day. Invariably that means that the negotiators are in the Moon Palace, and a lot of the other people who came here for COP 16 are in the Messe.
In the dying days of COP 15 in Copenhagen last year, as a few heads of state went behind closed doors to develop the Copenhagen Accord, civil society organisations were completely locked out of the negotiations. No exceptions. No real reasons given.
Combine this with the kind of police brutality and arrests that were happening regularly in Copenhagen and you get a very dangerous cocktail. Although the separation in Mexico seems less intentional, it is nonetheless very telling. And just as much as trust has to be rebuilt within the negotiating rooms themselves, there must be no questions about how inclusive this process is. Copenhagen is synonymous with secret meetings, arrests, locked doors and dangerous politics.
In the final analysis, it is indeed the governments of the world who must come up with a global deal on climate change, but the negotiations don’t happen in a vacuum.
Governments must remember that they are elected by people like you and me and that we have a right to let them know what we think, either within the process or protesting outside.
Just like countries have their negotiating bottom-lines, an inclusive process is a non-negotiable. Multilateralism becomes irrelevant without it. It’s impossible for governments to talk about the importance of working together one day, and to lock the doors to the negotiating venue or prevent people from protesting the next.
It is crucial that the South African government (and the police for that matter) do not repeat the mistakes that have been made at the meetings in the past.