Report back from Cochabamba
The People’s Climate Conference, Cochabamba, Bolivia, 19-22 April 2010
Our trip to Bolivia started a couple of days before the World People’s Conference on Climate Change, when we attended the 3rd International Water Conference, which was also commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Water War.
The people of Cochabamba were celebrating their victory against Bechtel, the multinational company that in 2000 was pushing for water privatization, and the people resisted through blockades and mass mobilisation.
Local and international organisations took this opportunity to come together to share experiences and even start preparing a strategy to make the right to water an important part of the upcoming conference. Tucked away in the corner of all this excitement, we found the carpa tematica (themed tent) that would later be transformed to mesa 18 (the 18th working group/table). It was here that discussions started to point out the contradictions between the external discourse on capitalism of the conference and the ongoing domestic mega-projects and extractive industries contributing to social injustice and climate change within Bolivia and Latin America.
Mesa 18 was organised by CONAMAQ (National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu) and other social movements from across the continent joined it along the way. They wanted it to be a part of the conference, which was why it was named the 18th working group, but it remained unofficial and controversial. Rumours were that the government met with the organisers earlier in the week to dissuade them from establishing this space, and opponents of the government latched onto this opportunity to try to undermine Evo Morales. However, everyone we spoke to was clear that this was to complement the conference by looking deeper into the local effects of global industrial capitalism – and not to oppose it.
Around the same time 500km from Cochabamba the San Cristobal community took action against the Japanese owned mine company that is the world’s third largest producer of silver and sixth largest of zinc. It is also extracting natural resources and contaminating the community’s water. They blockaded the company and started overturning trains full of mineral ore – a real example of the struggle against extractive industries and one that set the context for the conference during the following week.
If there were doubts at the beginning of the conference that this was a set up by the Bolivian government to get social movements to give their blind support, then it subsided by the end. And there was doubt! When the Forest Working Group went to meet for the first time they found a
moderator who turned out to be a UN bureaucrat and that the draft declaration included a description of the UNs REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Programme as a solution to deforestation.
REDD is a market solution which, through commodification of the forests, allows the global north to offset their emissions instead of reducing them, threatens communities and peoples who live in these areas, and replaces forests with monoculture plantations. The movements responded quickly – they used the process, and their interjections, to overturn this draft, and in the end REDD was outright rejected in the final declaration.
The strength and dignity of the voices representing people from all over the world made it clear that this process, if it was to be in our name, would not advocate any false solutions. So, when the final declaration was read most people from various working groups were happy with the outcome. Indeed, the declaration is inspiring - it spells out capitalism as the root cause of climate change and outright denounces the carbon market. But beyond its engagement with the UN process, it is missing a real plan on how to move forward.
That’s why the space that the conference provided for movements/peoples to meet, share stories, strategies and continue the process of building a linked up global movement to fight for climate justice was crucial.
We met with Rising Tide from Mexico, Ecuador and Australia, each with many inspiring stories and actions. It was interesting for example to find out that climate camps are put on by Rising Tide along with other groups, but generally actions throughout the year are organised outside a ‘camp’
We attended side events and listened to struggles against extraction, displacement, and contamination. In these side events what stood out the most for us were the voices that questioned the credibility and legitimacy of the UN process and that called for actions now.
We shared our stories as well – many people here don’t hear a lot about the resistance to capitalism and the direct action that happens against social injustice and climate change in Europe. The best reaction was when we announced in the middle of a heated drafting of the mesa 18 declaration – that in London there would be a solidarity stunt with the San Cristobal community. Everyone in the room applauded and cheered this is how we can work together in the fight for climate justice.
Declarations and actions
The blockade in San Cristobal was instrumental in showing that words were not enough and that action is needed. Mesa 18 may not have succeeded in throwing out a multinational out of Latin America that week, but they did draw up their own declaration that outright denounced all megaprojects in Latin America and called for a new model for the management of natural resources with the direct control of the workers. As far as we know, the plans continue.
(Read a rough translation of the declaration on our blog).
In this same spirit we participated with other climate activists from the UK and Europe spreading the call out that Climate Justice Action took up from call out by various social movements in Latin America, under the name Minga Global, for a day of direct action for climate justice on the 12th
of October – the day in defence of the mother earth.
On the last day of the conference we hosted a side event entitled ‘Building Bridges Across Continents.’ See it here: We used some of the time to brainstorm who were our allies and what/who were our obstacles in building climate justice, and the rest of the time brainstormed on how we can work together in building a global movement, using the 12th of October as a specific example. We were all excited to share ideas and start planning some action!
La lucha sigue / The struggle continues !
Agi and Ben
International working group
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HOST A REPORT BACK MEETING
Part of our remit is to feedback to local groups – let us know if you want us to come and visit email international[at]climatecamp.org.uk
COME TO THE NEXT CLIMATE JUSTICE ACTION MEETING
The next Climate Justice Action Europe gathering will be held in the Netherlands in late August. For more information check the Climate Justice Action website soon.
GET PLANNING FOR 12 OCTOBER
Join Minga Global and participate in a Day of Direct Action for Climate Justice on Tuesday 12 October 2010 and start planning!