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Kyoto Protocol is Human Rights Issue, Protesters Say

by Ranjit Devraj

on recent events

on Kyoto Protocol

(IPS) NEW DELHI -- It seemed a world away from the carpeted, perfumed and air-conditioned halls of Vigyan Bhavan (House of Knowledge), where the fate of the world's fragile atmosphere is being bartered and haggled over under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At an angry rally of fishermen, rickshaw pullers, peasants and activists ending a two-day Climate Justice Summit on Monday, there were no slick brochures and promotional compact discs of the sort being distributed at the UN meeting that started Oct. 23 and ends Friday.

There was also none of the diplomatic thrust and parry, loaded press briefings, incomprehensible jargon and legalese, cocktails and sumptuous dinners attendant on the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP-8) of the UNFCCC.

Instead, there was the unambiguous declaration that sought to fool nobody: "Our World is Not For Sale," stated repeatedly and in unison by nearly 5,000 marchers that came to the Indian capital for the occasion, hailing not only from distant Indian states but from several countries -- developed and developing.

As the rally, which marched from Raj Ghat, the mausoleum of Mahatma Gandhi, who in another age helped demolish the British Empire dressed in a loincloth, drew close to the Vigyan Bhavan, the armed security ring around the building sprang to attention.

It was determined not to allow the marchers or their simple wisdom seep into the venue of the official negotiations.

"We affirm that climate change is a human rights issue -- it affects our livelihoods, our health, our children and our natural resources," was the marchers' message.

And how did they expect to enforce that claim? "We will build alliances across states and borders to oppose climate change inducing patterns and advocate for and practice sustainable development," they vowed in their “Delhi Declaration,” even as the official political document was being wrangled over inside the imposing Vigyan Bhavan.

Asked if he had heard of the Climate Justice Summit, European Union representative Thomas Becker said he had not. The broad street in front of the Vigyan Bhvan had not only been "sanitized" for security, but possibly even sterilized to the point that there was no sign of life -- low life at any rate.

But Becker is bound to see in Tuesday's newspapers the determination of the marchers to reject the "market-based principles that guide the current negotiations to solve the climate crisis." The participants of the Climate Justice Summit were easily shooed away, but what they had to say and how they said it was every bit as well informed as the meanderings and sophistry of the best negotiators from 185 governments at the UN meeting .

Before Monday's rally and over the weekend, the organizers of the alternative summit, clad in T-shirts, jeans and sandals but representing such formidable campaigners as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, explained to the masses what they could ask for, how they could ask it and why they should ask it.

There were panels and workshops on such issues as alternative energy, food security, community resistance to fossil fuels, clean development mechanisms, carbon sinks, corporate accountability and ecological debt.

Vandana Shiva, who leads the New Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science Technology and Environment, said there was no need to discuss the science of climate change or whether it existed at all.

"The super-cyclone that hit Orissa, the rapidly receding Himalayan glaciers, the unprecedented droughts and floods and the clear disturbance of the seasonal cycles in recent years are enough evidence of what is happening," she said.

As for Clean Development Mechanisms and carbon sinks -- measures that critics say allow industrialized countries to dodge cuts on greenhouse gases by funding or undertaking green projects overseas -- Shiva observed that after attempts to commercialize living organisms, it was now the turn of the very air that people breathe to be bought and sold by transnational corporations.

On her way to the summit from her base in Dehra Dun town, in foothills of the Himalayas, Shiva said she saw herds of camels scampering away from drought-hit western Rajasthan state into the industrial town of Meerut outside Delhi. "What more evidence do you need for climate change?" she asked in the Hindi language.

Srisuwan Kuankachorn of the Bangkok-based Project for Ecological Recovery blamed the situation on national governments colluding with the industrial powers. "No one knows what our governments are trading away behind our backs until the damage is done -- aquaculture in southern Thailand and eucalyptus plantations in northern Thailand," Srisuwan said.

Harekrishna Debnath, who leads a federation of fishworkers, said he had to tear himself away from a small island where he is campaigning to prevent an attempt to hand over an island in the Bay of Bengal, used since time immemorial for drying fish, to commercial interests under the guise of forest protection.

Medha Patkar, who has led India's longest and best-known environmental movement to prevent the building of large dams across the Narmada river, said it was bitter irony that the negotiations to solve climate change had been hijacked by corporations and the industrialized countries.

"We are in a situation where most of the action to prevent climate change needs to happen in the North due to their over-consumption, while on the other hand, the people who need to prepare most for the impacts are in the developing world," said Yin Shao Loong of the Malaysia-based Third World Network.

Yin said what was missing in the FCCC negotiations were the mass movements against climate change, whose effects are worsened by corporate-led globalization.

"Transnationals do not operate from one place but from the whole world and so we have the power to bring them down once we are organized globally -- its that simple," he urged the participants of the parallel summit.

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Albion Monitor October 28 2002 (

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