#KeepUsInTheRoom: Civil society protests lockdown of Bonn climate negotiations

Renee Julienne M. Karunungan

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#KeepUsInTheRoom: Civil society protests lockdown of Bonn climate negotiations
Civil society organizations are locked out from the climate negotiations on, with only negotiators and delegates allowed inside the conference center

BONN, Germany – Civil society organizations (CSOs) staged a protest Wednesday morning, October 21, during the 3rd day of the climate negotiations in Bonn.

The CSOs were locked out from the climate negotiations on Tuesday, October 20, with only negotiators and delegates allowed inside the conference center.

On the first day of negotiations, most countries rejected the original draft of the text presented by the negotiation co-chairs. A new draft was then created after additional insertions were allowed. For many, the insertions were crucial for the negotiations to move forward. 

Negotiating blocks such as the G77, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Africa group, and the Like Minded Developing Countries have called the original text “lopsided,” “imbalanced,” and only serves the interests of rich countries like the United States.

After the insertions, developing countries saw loss and damage, human rights, and gender equality back in the text. Elenita Daño, Asia Director of Erosion, Technology and Concentration said developing countries were finally “reclaiming the text.” (READ: PH pushes for gender rights in climate negotiations)

Lock out 

The decision to keep civil society out of the negotiations was supported by Japan, saying that “real negotiations never happen in front of the public.” The United States and the European Union (EU) also supported the move. Meanwhile, developing countries were disappointed with the closed-door negotiations.

“Observers have invested great deal of time, money, and intellect. On what basis do we exclude them?,” said Malaysia. 

Accredited CSOs are usually allowed inside negotiations where they can observe the process and listen to the negotiators as they speak. This process allows for transparency of the negotiations, said CSOs.

“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,” Malaysia added. 

G77 and China also requested for the spin-off groups to be open to observers. Spin-off groups are parallel meetings tackling specific parts of the negotiating text.

As the third day of negotiations begin with civil society still not allowed inside, the issue was brought to social media with a protest petition called #KeepUsInTheRoom.

“Our presence signals an atmosphere of openness and willingness to stand up to public scrutiny.  Blocking us shows the opposite.” said Gita Parihar of the CSO Friends of the Earth International. 

“We are disappointed. There is historical reminder that the UN have been created on the basis that transparency is needed to achieve a democratic world. Secret negotiations is harmful for democracy,” stressed Anabella Rosemberg of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“This is a slap in the face for us who believe UN is a place where fair deals can be achieved,” she added.

Noelene Nabulivou of the Women and Gender Constituency said, “I am from Fiji and in the frontlines of climate change. It’s absolutely imperative that I would like to have access as much as I can in the negotiations.”

Nabulivou also emphasized the importance of having women, youth, and indigenous people inside the negotiating rooms. “This is a climate agreement for all the peoples of the world by all the peoples all the world. In order for us to have a climate change agreement that is just, we have to be inside the rooms,” she said.

Negotiating blocks AOSIS, Least Developed Countries, and the Africa group have since showed strong support for civil society participation and a transparent process. Seyni Nafo of the Africa group said they will make a proposal to the G77 to stop the negotiations until civil society are allowed back inside the negotiating rooms. – Rappler.com

Renee Juliene Karunungan is the Communications Director and climate campaigner of Dakila. Dakila is an organization that has been working on climate justice since 2009. She is also a climate tracker for Adopt A Negotiator.

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