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.

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