Friday, December 10, 2010

Closing out COP 16, Closing out Migrant Diaries

By Colin Rajah
December 10th, 2010

[Left: Our delegation meeting in our "HQ" preparing for the day of action.]

So here it is, the last and final installment of Migrant Diaries. We started this blog 5 years ago for the World Trade Organization (WTO) mobilization in Hong Kong. It seemed like it was important to quickly jot down thoughts, share pictures, report on events, and "write home" during our international delegations, events and other vital travel and while building with international allies. Today, more than ever, this is a critical piece of communication with our members, allies and other partners. But in an effort to streamline and update our communication, we'll be blogging directly from our new website in the new year. For now, here's our last entry from the COP 16 in Cancun...

[Right: IEN and GGJ delegations during LVC march. Photo credit: Ben Powless]

The day of action on Tuesday promised to be a challenging day and it proved to be that and more. Choosing to join the La Via Campesina mobilization, we began with a march around downtown Cancun. Then we were bussed and dropped off along the highway leading to Cancunmesse and ultimately the Moon Palace, where COP 16 was taking place.

The long and arduous march along the highway underneath the might of the glaring afternoon sun, was enlivened by the spirit of the thousands who chose to forsake comfort and safety, to challenge what the COP 16 stood for. For a glimpse into this powerful march, watch this short clip of Jasmine Thomas from IEN, inspiring our delegation with a moving rendition of an indigenous song while drumming:

Wednesday dawned early... again. There was heightened activity and confusion -- more than normal. The previous day, IEN Executive Director, Tom Goldtooth, along with other members of our delegation had been rudely escorted out of the Moon Palace resort where the COP 16 was taking place. This followed the canceling of my own accreditation to COP 16 the previous day, when I was also asked to leave due to some "technical glitch" that they refused to try to resolve.

[Left: Aunty Casey Camp-Horinek leads the IEN delegation.]

In Tom and the others' case, it was because they had held a press conference and action which criticized the market capitalistic nature of the COP, and the dominance of the World Bank in climate financing, carbon trading mechanisms and commodification of forests -- all of which will undoubtedly further displace communities. As a result, the COP 16 effectively silenced any dissenting civil society voice, allowing them to cut what is now being called the "Copenhagen 2" compromise -- no further commitments by developed countries to reduce emissions, and the development of a climate fund with more strings attached than a kitten's ball of wool!

While the crack media team went about putting out word on what had happened, a few of the IEN members and I rushed off to the "Esmex" for various workshops and panels.

[Right: Panel at the Esmex.]

For me, it was the panel on Migration, Militarization and Climate. Joined by allies from Bolivia, Mexico, Asia and elsewhere, we dove into the mythology surrounding "climate migrants", the intensification of militarization because of "climate fear" and "climate racism", and the lack of political will to deal with the thousands being displaced due to a global economic and political structure that has caused this crisis. Connections were made, cards were exchanged, and no doubt, follow up will be carried out. Most importantly, it is becoming evidently clear that thousands upon thousands of people everywhere are suffering from forced displacement due to a global economic structure that is causing this unprecedented climate change, while governments like the U.S. are using this as an excuse for further military intervention in regions like Africa, South America and South Asia.

Leaving Cancun, we took with us this amazing compilation by Allan Lissner of our collective work and actions from the entire 2 weeks in Cancun:

As was the case last year, no deal would've been better than a bad deal. But a bad deal is what we got from COP 16. The label "Can't-cun" seems to have stuck. As we celebrate International Human Rights Day today and look towards International Migrants Day next week, we are reminded that the rights of communities have taken a back seat to corporate profit and political hegemony of the U.S. and the E.U. But we are also reminded to take comfort in the knowledge that we stand in solidarity with movements around the world, as we did during COP 16, in opposition to such global injustice.

[Left: IEN's No REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation & Degradation) flag.]

As I was escorted out of Cancunmesse, withdrawn accreditation and all, I remembered how inherently challenging this work is on the international level. You have to deal with UN bureaucrats, slick diplomats, unscrupulous politicians, and our own version of "BiNGOs" (Big NGOs) and their lack of principles as they negotiate away our rights and justice. But I always seem to find solace among like-minded allies, in spite of language and cultural barriers up the wazoo.

So in closing Migrant Diaries, I offer up this humble tribute to all the international allies we've crossed paths with. The ones we have stood together facing the nasty end of a riot squad shield. The ones we know we can always turn to when no one else will stand with us. And yes, the ones who will be willing to be escorted out of a fancy schmancy resort with you. The principles we hold are lofty, and the path to get there is steep and rocky. But it is the journey with each and every one of you that makes it worthwhile.

Thank you for accompanying us along this journey, and we look forward to many more chapters in the days and years to come.

Monday, December 06, 2010

For Life, Environment & Justice

By Colin Rajah, reporting from Cancun, Mexico
December 6th, 2010

The international farmers' movement, La Via Campesina (LVC) began its Global Forum for Life, Environment and Social Justice this past weekend with a dynamic march through downtown Cancun and a series of plenaries denouncing the carbon markets that governments are trying to legitimize in their negotiations at COP 16 (see previous post.)

[Left: LVC caravans arrive into Cancun]

Its unique, welcoming and fun-filled camp is juxtaposed against the seriousness and sense of urgency felt in its actions, plenaries and other discussions.

[Right: LVC camp]

NNIRR was fortunate to be invited to present on a plenary at the forum this evening on migration.

[Left: Haitian participants sing before migration panel]

Alongside speakers from the Farmworkers Association of Florida, the Border Agricultural Workers Project (BAWP) and the Mouvement Paysan de Papaye (Peasant Movement of Papaya) from Haiti, the forces displacing communities and the critical conditions facing migrants were raised. In particular, we highlighted how the dominant capitalist economic agenda has concentrated wealth in a few elites, while exposing communities (especially rural and peasant ones) to exploitation and criminalization.

[Right: NNIRR's Colin Rajah, Carlos Marentes Sr. and other Migration panelists during LVC's Global Forum for Life, Environment, Justice. Photo credit: Sharon Lungo.]

Carlos Marentes Sr. from BAWP, a member of NNIRR and LVC, stated how climate change caused by global socio-economic and political policies are displacing communities, and denounced immigration enforcement by the same polluting governments who then criminalize the very communities they have displaced. In particular, Carlos named the US-Mexico Border wall installed by the US as a form of containing and controlling migrants. He then committed to continue working in collaboration with NNIRR and our other members to build an international grassroots movement to challenge these.

[Left: Climate Justice banner at LVC camp]

Tomorrow, we join LVC in their very anticipated day of action when thousands will march up to the Moon Palace, site of the COP 16, where like-minded government and civil society allies will come out to join us in symbolic solidarity. It is hard to anticipate the police and military response, but to say it will be intense, is an understatement. This only underscores the vast chasm between the government negotiations and current text of the climate convention, and the mass people's movements.

On Wednesday, we will also be speaking on a panel on climate, migration and militarization at the Espacio Mexico or Esmex. Reports from all these will be forthcoming.

[Right: Corn sculpture outside Esmex forum]

In the meantime, enjoy a short clip from Bolivian farmers and musicians at the LVC camp spontaneously engaging forum participants in dance:

Viva Campesinos, Viva Migrantes!

Friday, December 03, 2010

CJ from the USA

By Colin Rajah, reporting from Cancun, Mexico
December 3rd, 2010

For faithful readers of Migrant Diaries, we apologize for the long silence. Most of our recent postings have been deposited on NNIRR's other blog Immigrant Rights News. We'll also be transitioning to a newer, better blog in the coming months with the anticipated launch of our brand-spankin' new website in the new year. Stay tuned.

But for nostalgia's sake, this coming week we'll be posting the last few posts on Migrant Diaries before its retired. And this time, we're coming from Cancun, Mexico where the UNFCCC (United Framework Convention on Climate Change) and its Conference of the Parties (COP) is having its 16th conference, popularly known as "COP 16".

NNIRR is part of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) and Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) delegation of grassroots groups from the US participating in events in and around the COP 16. We're also a part of a larger strategic alliance of grassroots and allied organizations from North America actively engaged in organizing for Climate Justice, called the Grassroots Solutions for Climate Justice - North America or as some of us prefer to call it "CJ in the USA." Checkout the Press Release from our delegation about grassroots folks bringing climate justice solutions to Cancun.

Cop 16 runs from November 30 - December 10, 2010. Our broader delegation is engaged in an "inside-outside" strategy with trying to negotiate in key spaces within the COP as well as organizing various actions to highlight pressing issues, while engaging in the various alternative and civil society spaces outside the COP to exert strong pressure on it. (For a taste of the actions so far, checkout GJEP's Photo Essay 1 and Photo Essay 2.)

NNIRR's primary approach to COP 16 is to highlight our deepening analysis around the intersections of climate and migration, and more importantly around climate justice and migrant rights. A lot of dissonance has been surrounding the whole buzz around "climate refugees" or "environmental migrants". While these have good intentions to provide more rights for migrants impacted by climate change, they might actually seek to direct more militarization efforts against impacted communities, artificially create a hierarchy of oppressions among migrants, and misdirect attention away from the real culprit of socio-economic injustice. More on that to come.

For now, suffice to say that the first week at the COP has been an an interesting array of mixed feelings. These range from discouragement at the lack of political action within the COP especially from the primary polluting countries like the US, to excitement about the possibilities to meet and develop new allies especially those dedicated to migrant rights like the Bolivian delegation, to inspiration from other US grassroots allies who are taking creative actions such as the IEN delegation and members of our delegation who have been part of the La Via Campesina caravans.

We'll be posting more about all of these in the coming week. For now, have a look at our paper written with noted academic on migration, Stephen Castles, on Environmental Degradation, Climate Change, Migration and Development. And enjoy reading the last few postings from Migrant Diaries!