Global Civil Society at COP21
The Conference of the Parties had two main spaces, the Blue Zone, where country leaders met daily for a week to find an agreement that would reduce worldwide temperatures to minimize the impact of climate change in the world, and the “non-official” Green Zone, which was the space created for the general public to attend and present conferences and exchange knowledge and experiences. The Green Zone also included an Indigenous Pavilion, a space for worldwide representatives of indigenous nations.
There were also events held outside of COP21, known as side events. These were held by and for the civil society to connect and strategize.
The COP side events each had several hundred people attending. There were two large venues just for the people to come together to inform themselves about the issues discussed in the official Blue Zone. Conferences were offered on topics such as climate crimes against nature, the thread of GMO’s, monetization of Nature, peaceful civil disobedience, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, debriefs and analysis of the official talks, climate change advocacy in Latin America, Asia, Middle East, and many more.
A Growing Civil Society Committed to an Environmentally Sustainable, Spiritually Fulfilling, Socially Just Human Presence on this Planet
While country leaders met in the official Blue Zone, the global civil society had an unprecedented opportunity to gather in different dedicated spaces to plan and collaborate—a demonstration of the power the planetary family has when joining together, in this case to wrestle with the rising temperatures and to keep our home healthy.
Indigenous Peoples Participation
For the second year, the COP dedicated a space for the wisdom, recommendations, initiatives and demands of indigenous peoples to be publicly shared with others, and Pachamama Alliance partners from Sarayaku and Llanchamacocha were present there and in several forums where they shared about the imminent threat they face in their territories. This space was vital as it exposed this conversation about the rights of indigenous peoples—that is oftentimes left behind—to the entire civil society. Meanwhile, at the Blue Zone, Indigenous Peoples Rights were gradually disappearing from the dialogues and as of right now, recognition of indigenous rights only appears in the preamble of the Paris Accord, which doesn’t include binding, enforceable agreements and leaves this topic at an aspirational level. This decision leaves indigenous peoples in further risk of displacement from their lands because they are not legally protected by a globally recognized agreement.
Despite the shape that the COP21 talks were taking, representatives from indigenous nations around the world stood for their rights and had their voice heard at several events in and outside the Green Zone. One event was the Sunrise Canoe of Life Ceremony held by our Kichwa partners of the Sarayaku community in Ecuador. This event brought together indigenous peoples in a call to keep fossil fuels in the ground and urged governments to recognize and respect their collective rights and promote a new and harmonious way of relating with the natural world, this is what they call Living Forest (Selva Viviente) and Plentiful Living (Buen Vivir).
The agreement reached at COP21 is far from what the world needs today, yet there is a strong civil society that has emerged despite the threats humanity faces. Today, the human family is faced with a promise from country leaders to become carbon neutral by 2050, a date that leaves the web of life in high risk. Regarding setting a goal to limit emissions to 1.5°C, we heard U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry announce, “I think you can write that aspiration into the agreement in a way that doesn’t make it the target or guidepost for the agreement.” Non-committal talks are what we heard the most at COP21, yet that is not stopping the civil society. It is undeniable that the people of the world are rising up, educating and preparing themselves to take responsibility for the present and the future. Environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author, Paul Hawken calls this something much bigger than a movement, this is most of humanity coming together to “resist and heal political disease, economic infection, and ecological corruption caused by ideologies. This is fundamentally a civil rights movement, a human rights movement; this is a democracy movement; it is the coming world.”
We must remain hopeful, not necessarily because of the official negotiations, but because of the incredibly, overwhelming, powerful presence and active participation of the civil society.
What is obvious is that it is up to us and not only to governments to address the current ecological and social crisis which requires that we transform our international and domestic legal systems to nurture, rather than allow the destruction of the Earth community. COP21 was evidence that it is outside of the official talks where the holistic, inclusive conversation and action are happening.
Our next step as a civil society, as a united front is to hold our country leaders accountable for the few promises made and to reinforce the importance of binding agreements that will address the current crisis in a timely matter.
Pachamama Alliance is proud to be working together with indigenous peoples in their struggle and using their wisdom to inform the world about the urgency and the possibility of our times.