(Updated April 24) Bolivia: Historic people's climate conference winds up -- first reports on outcomes

Democracy Now! -- April 22, 2010. Cormac Cullinan, South African environmental lawyer and an anti-apartheid activist, is co-president of the people's conference Rights of Mother Earth Working Group. He reports on its findings (full transcript of interview below).

[For more coverage of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, click HERE.]

People’s summit adopts ‘Cochabamba Protocols’

By Brenda Norrell, Cochabamba

(See the end of this article for a link to the People’s Agreement text in Spanish.)

April 23, 2010 — Censored News via Capitalism and Climate — The World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth culminated Thursday and released the final declaration, the Agreement of the Peoples, calling for the establishment of an International Climate Court to prosecute polluters, condemning REDD and holding polluters responsible for their climate debt.

With the release of the final declaration, Indigenous Peoples proclaimed the outcome as, “The Cochabamba Protocols.”

Describing the damage to Mother Earth and the catastrophic effects of global temperature increases, the Agreement of Peoples states that the so-called developed nations are seizing the bounties of Mother Earth for profit without regard to the consequences for the people or the earth.

The Agreement, released in Spanish Thursday night, states that capitalism requires a strong military industry for the process of accumulation and the control of territories and natural resources, which suppresses peoples’ resistance. It is described as “an imperialist system of colonization of the planet.”

The Agreement of the Peoples proposes a draft Universal Declaration of Mother Earth. Further, it states that the people deplore the attempt by a group of countries to cancel the Kyoto Protocol, the only specific binding instrument for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in developed countries.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be fully recognized, implemented and integrated in the climate change negotiations. The best strategy and action is to avoid deforestation and degradation and protect native forests, while recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, it states.

The market mechanism of REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) is condemned, which violates the sovereignty of peoples and their right to free, prior and informed consent and the sovereignty of nation states. REDD violates the rights and customs of Peoples and the Rights of Nature.

The carbon market is described as a lucrative business of commercializing our Mother Earth. Instead of tackling climate change, it is an act of looting and ravaging the land, water and even life itself.

The Agreement of Peoples states the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be fully recognized, implemented and integrated in the climate change negotiations, with forests protected from degradation, especially considering most of the forests are in Indigenous territories.

The final declaration calls for leading industrial nations to cut emissions by 50 percent.

With the release of the final declaration, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the human race can benefit from the wisdom of the world’s indigenous peoples, who understand that humanity must live in harmony with nature.

“The peoples of the Andes believe in the concept of ‘living well’ instead of wanting to ‘live better’ by consuming more regardless of the cost to our neighbors and our environment. It is with these ancient teachings in mind that, exactly one year ago, the United Nations General Assembly accepted Bolivia’s proposal to celebrate International Mother Earth Day on April 22, which coincides with the final day of our conference.

“We now propose to go one step further and begin collectively drafting a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. This will establish a legal framework for protecting our increasingly threatened natural environment and raising the global consciousness about Mother Earth, on which we all depend for life.”

Indigenous Peoples came from throughout the world to speak out for the Rights of Mother Earth. Western Shoshone grandmother Carrie Dann, 75, fighting new gold mining on sacred Mount Tenabo, and Timbisha Shoshone Chairman Joe Kennedy were among the grassroots American Indians attending. Maori from New Zealand, Navajo, Gwich’in, Lakota, Acoma Pueblo, O’odham, Dakota, Mohawk, Yaqui and Oneida joined First Nations and an Alaskan delegation to uphold the rights of Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples in Bolivia. Indigenous delegations from the north and south joined President Morales to open the conference with a blessing ceremony.

The Indigenous Environmental Network exposed the deception of REDD.

“REDD is a predatory program that pretends to save forests and the climate, while backhandedly selling out forests out from under our Indigenous People,” said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), based in Bemidji, Minn. “REDD will encourage continuing pollution and global warming, while displacing those of us least responsible for the crisis, who have been stewards of the forests since time immemorial.”

The declarations forged by the working groups in Cochabamba will be taken to the Cancún summit by President Morales as a counter-proposal to the widely criticized Copenhagen Accord. Movements of Indigenous Peoples, trade unions, farmers and environmentalists are also building momentum out of Cochabamba with plans for mass demonstrations in Cancún.

The Bolivian government said the protection and rational use of natural resources was the main proposal of the conference this week, which also advocated the penalization of nations harming the environment. The creation of an International Court for Climate Justice to judge violators of environmental agreements was presented by Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Morales said the new structure should be validated by the United Nations.

The US media was noticeably absent from the conference in Tiquipaya, which began Monday. However, the Summit had a significant international impact, according to experts interviewed by Telesur. They assured that it has been fully justified and had an international scope with views to the Mexico climate summit slated for the end of the year and after the Copenhagen fiasco.

The Agreement of the Peoples in Spanish:
ACUERDO DE LOS PUEBLOS Conferencia Mundial de los Pueblos sobre el Cambio Climático y los Derechos de la Madre Tierra

Evo Morales calls for an International Court of Climate Justice

Prensa Latina

Cochabamba, Bolivia -- April 21, 2010 -- Bolivia's President Evo Morales stated on April 21 that the action by the peoples of the world will make others accept the International Court of Climate Justice proposed at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth underway in Cochabamba.

"We know that capitalism will not admit such a thing, but only with the strength of the peoples, will we make them accept ... the need to punish those nations which do not protect the environment", he said while addressing the conference.

According to Morales, strong social movements should be created in those countries where governments are not hand in hand with its peoples. He expressed confidence that the Court of Climate Justice has quite a strong acceptance among social movements around the world.

Morales referred, too, to the failure of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, 2009, and said this is a good moment to think about the Earth.

He also talked about an international referendum on climate also being discussed at the conference, and proposed a new organisations with the names Intercontinental Coordinator for Mother Earth (Cimatierra) and Movement for Mother Earth (Mamatierra). They would be responsible with submitting demands to the International Court of Justice.

It has been reported that the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth will now take place very two years.

Bolivia climate conference moves to establish Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

Democracy Now! -- April 22, 2010

AMY GOODMAN: On this Earth Day special, we’re broadcasting from the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth here in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya. One of the key initiatives of the climate conference here in Bolivia is to come out with a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

South African environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan is the co-president of the Rights of Mother Earth Working Group here at the summit. He arrived at the climate change conference with a draft Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth that form the basis of the discussion here. Cormac Cullinan joins me here in Tiquipaya.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

CORMAC CULLINAN: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what is happening with this declaration.

CORMAC CULLINAN: Well, it’s been a slightly chaotic process, but with incredible participation by everybody. Every day in the working group, we’ve had more than 400 people. And yesterday at the plenary group we had well over that number, probably possibly a thousand people. And everybody’s been contributing directly to the text and to the substance of it.

There was a text which was produced beforehand, and then that was workshopped at a pre-conference here in Bolivia. But there have been contributions from all over the world. So the challenge really has been to ensure that we’ve integrated all the different comments and points of view. And it’s been an amazing process.

One of the difficulties is that we are essentially expressing an entirely new worldview, particularly arising from an Indigenous perspective, in legal language which is understandable by essentially another culture. So that’s been quite a challenge in drafting.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what this declaration is, though.

CORMAC CULLINAN: What the declaration is, essentially, is—it’s intended to complement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of—on the Human Rights. So the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights only recognises that human beings have got inherent rights. In other words, it says just because you exist as a human being, you have these rights, regardless of whether your country or government tries to take them away from you.

What we’re saying is that everything has inherent rights. By virtue of the fact that the Earth exists and all other creatures and mountains and rivers exist, they must also have inherent rights. At least the right to exist, to play their part in the evolutionary processes of Mother Earth. So the problem is, because we’ve only recognised human rights, we’ve created an imbalance. So human rights trump everything else, because they don’t have rights. And we’re trying to redress that balance by recognising the rights which surround human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: And how does it stand at the United Nations?

CORMAC CULLINAN: At the moment, it would require a state, such as Bolivia, to raise it at the United Nations and get it onto the agenda. So at this stage, it’s still very early in the process. But I think the important thing about this in relation to climate change is this an initiative that looks at the causes of climate change. It’s not about arguing about the technicalities of cap and trade or technology, etc. This is saying why do we have—why is climate change arising? And it’s because of our relationship with Mother Earth. And this is attempting to heal that relationship.

AMY GOODMAN: Your book was called Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice. Why Wild Law?

CORMAC CULLINAN: I was trying to draw attention to the fact that our legal systems are aimed at controlling and dominating nature, essentially, and that we need to change to an attitude of participation, and that wildness, in a sense, is a kind of a synonym for the natural creative energy of the universe, and that we need laws that enable that to flourish, rather than attempt to dominate it.

AMY GOODMAN: And where does all of this stand in South Africa? How is this received?

CORMAC CULLINAN: Well, it’s by no means accepted. There are little bits and pieces in legislation that I’ve drafted. But really it’s something that’s happening all over the world. So, in the United States, you have the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund working for local communities on these issues. In India, you have the Earth democracy movement, led by Vandana Shiva, as she’s been a major player in that. In Africa, these ideas of Earth jurisprudence—in other words, an Earth-centered approach to law—are spreading. There are wild law conferences in England every year, and Australia has just started. So it’s really beginning to spread throughout the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the criticism of the conference, what does it mean? How is it binding? Or do you look at it as a gathering of people, 15,000 people, that would never have been able to participate in these world UN conferences?

CORMAC CULLINAN: I think it’s a symptom of much more important shift in global governance, because democracy used to be something that happened between diplomats behind closed doors, etc. Now we are saying—you’re seeing people saying, “This is too important. We cannot leave this to governments. We have to take responsibility for addressing these issues.” So this is about people saying, “We’d like the UN to take this up, but even if it doesn’t, we are—this is what we believe, and we’re going to work on these issues right now.”

AMY GOODMAN: Also, the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, how does that fit in?

CORMAC CULLINAN: That essentially came out the horrors of the Second World War, you know, and people feeling that something had to be done, this can’t go on anymore. And we’re in a similar position in history. We are sitting here saying climate change is threatening humanity and many species, etc. And what‘s happening through these very formal negotiating processes between governments aren’t fast enough and don’t go far enough and don’t address the root causes. And so, this is an initiative which comes out of a similar period of crisis to say we’ve go to cut to the chase: what is wrong is our relationship with Mother Earth, and we must heal that. So a lot of this declaration is about human responsibilities to Mother Earth, as well as the rights of Mother Earth.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Cormac Cullinan, South African environmental lawyer, co-president of the Rights of Mother Earth Working Group here in Tiquipaya. He arrived at the climate change conference with this draft Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth that’s forming the basis of much of the discussion here. People are chanting outside on this Earth Day, on this concluding day of the World Peoples’ Summit.

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Indigenous in Cochabamba condemn predatory REDD forest programs

By the Indigenous Environmental Network, Cochabamba

April 22, 2010 -- Indigenous Peoples from across the Americas are in Cochabamba, Bolivia today to close the historic conference on climate change and the “rights of Mother Earth” hosted by President Evo Morales. Morales, the only Indigenous head of state in the world, called this conference in the wake of failed climate talks in Copenhagen. As the world prepares for the next round of talks in Cancún, Mexico, Indigenous Peoples vowed today to push for proposals that keep fossil fuels in the ground, protect Indigenous rights and reject predatory policies like Reducing Emissions Through Deforestation & Degradation (REDD) scheme.

“REDD is branded as a friendly forest conservation program, yet it is backed by big polluters and climate profiteers. We cannot solve this crisis with out addressing the root cause: a fossil fuel economy that disregards the rights of Mother Earth”, said Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel for the International Indian Treaty Council. “President Morales has heard our recommendations on the structural causes of climate change and predatory carbon schemes like REDDs, and will bring our voices to the world stage in Cancún later this year.”

This morning President Morales was joined by representatives of 90 governments and several heads of state to receive the findings of the conference on topics such as a climate tribunal, climate debt, just finance for mitigation and adaptation, agriculture and forests.

The working group on forests held one of the more hotly contested negotiations of the summit, but with the leadership of Indigenous Peoples, a consensus was reached to reject REDD and call for wide-scale grassroots reforestation programs. The final declaration on forests states, “We condemn the mechanisms of the neoliberal market, such as the REDD mechanism and its versions REDD+ and REDD++, which are violating the sovereignty of our Peoples and their rights to free, prior and informed consent and self determination.” The working group on forests also challenged the definition of forests used by the United Nations, which permits plantations and transgenic trees, saying, “Monocultures are not forests.”

“REDD is not a solution to climate change”, said Marlon Santi, president of Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), the largest Indigenous organisation in that country. “REDD has been created by multilateral institutions like the World Bank that routinely violate Indigenous Peoples’ rights and pollute Mother Earth. It is perverse that these institutions are pretending to have the ‘solution’ when they have actually caused the climate crisis. REDD should not be implemented in any country or community.”

“REDD is a predatory program that pretends to save forests and the climate, while backhandedly selling out forests out from under our Indigenous People”, said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), based in Bemidji, MN. “REDD will encourage continuing pollution and global warming, while displacing those of us least responsible for the crisis, who have been stewards of the forests since time immemorial.”

The declarations forged by the working groups in Cochabamba will be taken to the Cancún summit by President Morales as a counter-proposal to the widely criticised “Copenhagen Accord”. Movements of Indigenous Peoples, trade unions, farmers and environmentalists are also building momentum out of Cochabamba with plans for mass demonstrations in Cancún.

[Indigenous Environmental Network: Indigenous Peoples empowering Indigenous Nations and communities towards sustainable livelihoods, demanding environmental justice and maintaining the Sacred Fire of our traditions.]

People’s climate summit seeks to halve emissions by 2020

April 22, 2010 -- PWCCC -- A “people’s conference” on climate change agreed in Bolivia on April 22 to call for the halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, at the next UN climate meeting in Mexico in December.

Some 20,000 environmental activists, Indigenous leaders and unionists called for “collective, then individual, obligations for the reduction of greenhouse gases”, instead of the non-binding accord adopted at the end of last year in Copenhagen, which the group dubbed a “failure”.

Bolivia's UN ambassador, Pablo Solon, said that a 50 per cent reduction could limit the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celcius, instead of the two degrees agreed to in Copenhagen but which would not be met under current individual country pledges.

The three-day Cochabamba forum, organised by Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales, also recommended the creation of an international climate tribunal to judge countries on global warming.

It promised to take steps to create a declaration of Earth rights and to organise an international referendum on the environment to coincide with the next Earth Day, on April 22, 2011.

The conference followed a preparatory meeting between representatives from the world’s leading economies in Washington ahead of the December UN summit in Cancun, Mexico.

The United States on April 19 downplayed hopes of clinching a new climate treaty this year, warning against unrealistic expectations despite what it said was growing agreement among major nations.

Lessons from Cochabamba on borders, labels and justice

By Michelle Chen

April 22, 2010 -- RaceWire  -- It’s fitting that migration has been a major focus at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which brought thousands from all around the world to gather and discuss the racial, socioeconomic and human rights issues that were all but ignored last year in the disastrous Copenhagen summit. The surge of activists in Cochabamba was a reverse reflection of the kind of climate migration that has exploded around the globe, as environmental turmoil begets mass displacement and the destruction of communities and Indigenous cultures.

The working group on climate migrants linked population migration and the framework of social, environmental and cultural rights at the crux of the climate justice movement.

The conference participants hope to encourage the recognition of so-called environmental refugees in law and society. Some of the principles put forward for dealing with climate migration involve basic legal protections and regulations, such as:

1. To demand that international agreements consider the definition of climate migrant and that all states of the world comply with its determinations.

2. To design global policies from the peoples, addressing climate change for governments to structure their local policies and internal regulations, respecting the systematic participation of peoples and territories involved.

3. To develop a declaration of human rights for climate migrants, valid and recognized globally.

4. To create an international peoples’ organism that promotes a permanent investigation on political, social, cultural and economic situation of climate migrants, and controls as well the implementation of the policies proposed in this document.

5. To demand the creation of an economic fund exclusively integrated by developed countries classified by the UN as the ones primarily responsible for climate change, in order to seek attention to internal and external climate migrants.

6. To create mechanisms that regulate migration due to climate causes towards our countries, in order to prevent the occupation of our territories within a policy of migration control.

Many of these points dovetail with the overarching agenda for a just immigration policy advanced by activists in the United States. The concept of migration as a reflection of human needs (and of government imposed social and economic frustration) is often sidelined or overlooked in the wrangling in Washington over quotas, visas and border patrols.

Yet Yasmine Brien, an activist with UK-based No Borders, questioned the entire system of categorisation, raising an interesting point about how classification of outsiders often serves to divide and control, rather than protect.

There's a real push for trying to get recognition and protection for a new category of migrants. But currently we have a system in Europe and in North America where the categories that we have aren't serving to protect people. Refugees aren't treated with humane conditions or with dignity. In Europe, we have immigration prisons, we lock children up indefinitely... And we just think it's really important in terms of these discourses around climate migration, we're really realistic about what it is that we're working towards. And while I have kind of engaged with the process here today, I think ultimately it can only be a very short-term position to try and ease some of the pressures. But ultimately we need to be abolishing all of the border systems and stopping any categorisation of human beings. We're one human race, and we're in this mess together. And until we kind of consider that, and step out of these legal frameworks that are imposed on us by our nation-states, we're not really going to solve the problems.

Okay, the abolition of national borders may seem far flung, particularly from the vantage point of the myopic political dialogue on immigration in Washington. Yet Brien's perspective on the social implications of legal categories for immigrants is particularly trenchant in the US context. Officials and communities are constantly expected to siphon people according to their economic roles and legal status: illegal versus legal, guestworker programs, T-visas, U-visas, temporary protected status, green cards and taxpayer identification numbers. After 9/11, there was "special registration," designed to blur the line between "terrorist" and "foreigner". Today the United States processes refugees and asylees, maintains no fly lists, demonises criminal "aliens". We hear that word "amnesty" being bandied about as both an aspiration and an epithet. And we have clogged courts, tasked with sorting these strangers into a cold taxonomy.

As chaos of climate change forces unprecedented demographic shifts, we may see yet more labels, more borderlands turned into disaster zones or even battlefields. The United States, for now, has been spared some of the heaviest impacts of climate migration, which are concentrated in "developing" regions. Still, our current immigration crises has provoked plenty of anxiety in response to people being driven from their homes and desperately seeking a piece of North American privilege. What some might call a demand for economic justice, others may see as an unjust taking -- and the legal categories the government tries to impose reveal the futility of codifying an arbitrary moral spectrum.

That's why Arizona State Sen.Russell Pearce can defend his state's anti-immigrant bill by proclaiming, 'Illegal' is not a race--it's a crime" ... and we'll all know what he means.

Inside our borders and beyond, we see labels being wielded to exclude others rather than to serve justice. Use with caution.