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UN Climate Conference Locks Out Green NGOs

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Renee Julienne Kurungunan, Asia Sentinel

Climate talks off to a bad start with negotiations behind closed doors

Protests have broken out in Bonn, Germany on the third day of negotiations over a wide-ranging global climate pact to be acted on in December, with developing countries and environmentalists complaining that they had been locked out of the process.

The entire process has been thrown into doubt in addition to the protests, especially with the most-developed nations already acknowledging that they can’t meet a limitation of 2.C of global warming by 2030.

After a painful first day of negotiations in which a majority of countries rejected the original draft of the text presented by the co-chairs, a new draft was created after additional insertions were allowed.

With protesters standing outside carrying signs saying “#Keepus in the room,” the insertions were regarded as crucial for the negotiations to move forward. Negotiating blocs including the G77 – the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations – as well as the Alliance of Small Island States, the Africa group and the Like Minded Developing Countries called the original text “lopsided” and “imbalanced” and serving the interests of rich countries like the United States at the expense of the less-developed nations.

After the insertions, developing countries managed to get the issues of loss and damage, human rights and gender equality back into the text. Elenita Daño, Asia Director of the Philippines-based Erosion, Technology and Concentration, said that was the equivalent of “developing countries reclaiming the text.”

However, much to the disappointment of civil societies and other countries including Malaysia, the co-chairs decided that negotiations would be closed. That decision was supported by Japanese representatives, who said that “real negotiations never happen in front of the public.” The United States and the European Union supported locking out the NGOs.

“Observers have invested great deal of time, money and intellect. On what basis do we exclude them?” said a Malaysia delegate. Accredited civil society groups are usually allowed inside negotiations where they can observe the process and listen to the negotiators as they speak, a process that allows for transparency.

“This is integral since climate change involves the whole world and not just diplomats. It concerns humanity at large. Why aren’t observers allowed in spin-offs? We don’t need to be afraid of civil society. We are accountable to them,” the Malaysia delegate added. The G77 nations and China also requested that spin-off groups, parallel meetings that tackle specific parts of the negotiating text, be open as well.

Civil society groups have also spoken up against the lockout.

“Our presence signals an atmosphere of openness and willingness to stand up to public scrutiny. Blocking us shows the opposite.” said Gita Parihar, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth International. “We are disappointed. There is a historical reminder that the United Nations was created on the basis that transparency is needed to achieve a democratic world.”

“Secret negotiations are harmful for democracy. This is a slap in the face for us who believe the UN is a place where fair deals can be achieved,” said Anabella Rosenberg of the International Trade Union Confederation.

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