Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is COP15 the problem or the solution? And, freedom of speech vs. freedom of participation

I have been tracking the “goings on” of the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen. In the process, one of the blogs I have been following is called: Liz to Copenhagen.

Today she wrote:

“There are a series of high-level meetings taking place this Friday with 115 heads of state, and I guess they don’t want us riffraff getting in their way. So, the UN has set up a system.

  • 7000 NGOs are allowed in tomorrow. This is 7000 out of the 35 000 who have applied for accreditation.
  • 1000 are allowed in on Thursday.
  • 90 are allowed in on Friday during the head-of-state meetings.

“I wholeheartedly disapprove! This is contrary to the principles of the UN and the UNFCCC as a transparent forum for staging events, networking, expressing grievances, and trying to urge our leaders to take civil society into account as they make decisions.

“A system of double badges will be put into place in addition to the usual badge check and security line. The secondary badges will be distributed to 33% of the NGO delegation in question. The other 2/3 just do without. What this means for the youth constituency, and SustainUS specifically, is that (in addition to destroying our sole line of wireless communication) we each receive a number each day, which we must strategically divide among our extended delegation of 99. This means we go in pre-scheduled shifts, and youth must shift our headquarters to outside the Bella Center. The worst part is that they didn’t even give SustainUS 33%–they gave us 24 badges.

“The youth movement has been working diligently throughout the last several years to gain recognition as a serious stakeholder in this process. It has all been eradicated with the stroke of a pen. We are most displeased. This is exactly the sort of thing the UN needs not to be doing at this point.

“No surprise, but–when you consider that the youth have been called the moral voice of the UN, I guess this shows what role morality plays in the real world.”

I have two responses to this post. First, I praise her energy and enthusiasm. Second, as I wrote in a comment on her blog:

“I was just saying on my Facebook: ‘There is a misconception in this country that freedom of speech = freedom to be listened to. I have a right to ignore what you are saying!’ Allowing 7000 NGOs in seems very reasonable, to me. There is a lot of redundancy in that 35,000.”

In a second comment, I wrote:

“What number should be allowed in on Friday when the heads of state meet? 30,000? 10,000? 7000? 500? Does that seem reasonable? Does it seem like any more than 90 would facilitate a productive session?

“I must admit, it seems to me that the “youth movement’s” exclusion on Friday only eradicates their efforts if you choose to see it that way. Perhaps part of that effort was electing one Presidential candidate or another. Perhaps it has placed a spotlight on this effort.

“I am a firm believer in open government and consensus making and allowing citizen input, but at some point in our “republic” (and that is what we are, not a pure democracy) we elect people to be in the room and see us across the finish line. If they fail to do that, we can choose to hold them accountable. We can choose to trust them or not, that is an individual choice. With this President, and the political reality in the United States such as it is, I choose to trust that he will get us the best deal that he can. It won’t go far enough for me, but it never was going to go far enough for me. Other countries would see to that, even if my country did not.”

My question is; what is the alternative? The day after Copenhagen we start anew to keep the ball rolling forward.

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