Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Monthly Archives: July 2014

Next Steps for the Venezuela Social PreCOP and the Margarita Declaration on Climate Change

by Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network, and member of the GGJ Coordinating Committee

tomGAs a delegate of GGJ to the International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, held on the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela, I was always mindful of the question of how to engage, from a grassroots position, coming from a rural Native community. Additionally, as an Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), I have a mandate on climate justice in our work with Native/Indigenous communities directly experiencing the effects of a changing climate, extreme weather events, and with some communities; fighting existing and expansion of fossil fuel development.

The Margarita Declaration on Climate Change, as the outcome document from the Social PreCOP included the recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the human rights of vulnerable communities and peoples, as a result of climate related impacts. This is consistent with the platforms of GGJ, IEN and the Climate Justice Alliance related to the link of rights and climate change. It is also in line with our demand for “System change not climate change” that requires an end to the global empire of transnational corporations and banks. Many of those corporations and banks have roots in the United States. Only a world that has democratic control over resources that is based on the rights of Indigenous peoples, workers (including migrant workers), women’s rights, the rights of future generations and youth, and that respects people will be able to guarantee economic, social, cultural and environmental-climate justice. As we are beginning to know, systems’ change requires a break from the patriarchal society in order to start looking at a new U.S. and global paradigm, from a property rights regime of ownership, to a paradigm that recognizes the rights of Mother Earth, of Nature. This redefines our relationship to the sacredness of the planet and its ecosystems and all aspects of life.

In Venezuela I witnessed civil society, peasants, small farmers and Indigenous peoples coming together to articulate the concerns with the failure of the world leaders within the United Nations climate negotiations (called Framework Convention on Climate Change-UNFCCC) to reach an international treaty-level agreement for real solutions for mitigating the climate crisis. At the recent Conference of the Parties (COP) of the world leaders in Warsaw, Poland in December 2013, frustrations and distrust lead to the walk out of civil society organizations from the Warsaw climate talks. This raised awareness, and shifted the focus to mobilizing people and to send a clear message: “People and communities around the world are already implementing climate-safe, local energy alternatives, just transition and governments should listen to them and not to polluting corporations.” This is the message of Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ), Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) and Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). This message was also expressed in the Social PreCOP.

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Post Venezuela Social PreCOP Reflections by Diana Lopez

by Diana Lopez, Southwest Workers Union

Recently I was selected to be part of a delegation attending a preparation meeting for the Social PreCOP scheduled for November in Venezuela. I was part of the Grassroots Global Justice delegation along with Ife Kilimanjaro from East Michigan Environmental Action Council and Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environmental Network.10416604_10204340322731837_3030574767626517247_n

Southwest Workers Union’s work within North America, the belly of the beast, is grounded in our struggle for justice for people who by systematic design have more obstacles to overcome. Our members come from all over Latino America but most are native to the US/Mexico border region, which became a border through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Our ancestors where betrayed, lynched, hunted and slaughtered because they were brown, because they didn’t believe in the racist, oppressive laws that were imposed to keep the white, male landowners in power. The same story can be said throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. And while we hold similar histories we also hold similar solutions and ways of organizing around climate change.

This convergence focused around 5 strategic themes that will collectively construct a new climate agreement. Youth, elders, negotiators, organizers and everyone in between were part of these meetings.

  1. Social impact of climate change
  2. Climate ethics:  Differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities
  3. Social participation in decision making Salón Santiago
  4. Fighting climate change. Direct action for Transformation
  5. North-South responsibilities. Commitments by the North to strengthen action in the South.

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Post Venezuelan Social Pre-COP Reflections by Ife Kilimanjaro

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Photo taken by Ife Kilimanjaro

Submitted by Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council

Climate change is a geo-physical reality, the evidence of which is captured in numerous geologic  formations around the world. The destabilization of natural climate and ecological systems that we are experiencing today, however, are due to unnatural forces. Specifically, climate disruptions, extreme weather events, global warming and similar events are fueled by conditions put in motion by generations of resource intensive industrial production driven by profit, organized to meet the interests of the capitalist ruling race, class, gender and culture.

Solutions to this global crisis must come from a global community concerned about current and future generations’ ability and capacity to live, work, love and create.  Unfortunately governments do not agree on what to do or who should do it.  Well, to clarify, there is consensus that something must be done; but some world leaders say that those who have been polluting longer have a greater responsibility and should shoulder a higher proportion of the burden to reduce emissions, mitigate impacts of climate change on hard hit nations, etc. Other world leaders, such as those from the Unites States, Europe and her other children, contend that current governments and corporations shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of their forefathers and that the playing field ought to be level. (Although we know this is not the case).

At the heart of this difference are questions of historical responsibility, differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.  Though I am pretty green on the UN process, it would appear that these issues were raised in the development of the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in December 1997.  The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement between member nations to commit to setting binding emission reduction targets. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities reflects the recognition that countries with a longer history of industrial development are “…principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity…” (Quote source). The Kyoto Protocol places a heavier burden on these countries for reducing emissions now and in the future than those who have more recently begun to follow similar paths of development.

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July 17 2014 2 023 2  GGJ delegate Diana Lopez, Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, Texas (in the red dress) is helping translate for the Spanish speaking Indigenous Peoples participating in the International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, at the Isle of Margarita, Venezuela. This was an Indigenous caucus meeting organized by Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, a member organization of GGJ. The indigenous person participating that came from the furthest distance was Mrinalini Rai, from Nepal. Photo taken by Tom BK Goldtooth

GGJ Delegate Tom BK Goldtooth Presents on Social Participation in Decision Making at the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP

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Tom BK Goldtooth, GGJ delegate, and Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network was a presenter on the thematic topic on Item III. Social Participation in Decision Making.  This was part of the Mesa process on the second day of the historical International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change, Isle of Margarita, Venezuela. The description of this thematic topic was: Adequate and effective participation of social movements in the decision making process to face the climate crisis.  The guidelines for the discussion was to discuss the question of effective participation of grassroots organizations, local communities, children and youth, indigenous groups and minorities in decision making to face the climate crisis.  Guidelines included: Different forms of social organization, its characteristics and effective forms of participation; Specialized language as an element of exclusion; Gender, cultural and ethnic diversity and equity; Local, national and global participation; and Recognizing traditional knowledge, experience and wisdom. Tom focused on the topic of Indigenous Peoples and did a 10-minute intervention that started out the process for discussion.

These were the talking points that Tom covered:

  1. Indigenous Peoples, from the North and global South have a political, legal and cultural-spiritual relationship within the countries they come from. It is not just social.
  2. Indigenous are not mere stakeholders, but rights-holders, because they are the original-First Peoples in the countries they come from. Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who originally inhabited the territory of a country before the arrival of colonizers from other parts of the world, either by conquest, settlement or other means.
  3. Politically, within climate policy initiatives, Indigenous peoples’ consistently reaffirm their rights to self-determination and to own, control and manage their ancestral lands and territories, waters and other resources.
  4. Indigenous peoples have the right to meaningful participation in decision-making matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making processes and institutions.
  5. Indigenous peoples have a distinct spiritual and material relationship with their lands and territories. The link to their lands and territories are inextricably linked to their survival and to the preservation and further development of their indigenous knowledge systems and cultures, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and ecosystem management.
  6. In order to participate in climate discussions, Indigenous peoples need popular education and training on the topic of climate change and global warming, including the pros and cons of mitigation and adaptation mechanisms. This especially applies to those living in far remote and rural locations. This education and training includes the crosscutting issues, solutions and risks, such as violations of treaty agreements by the U.S. and Canada; violations to the access and right to water; human rights instruments; just transition; etc;
  7. These popular education materials need to be available in the Indigenous Peoples’ language;
  8. The need to de-mystify the negotiating language of climate change within the UN climate meetings.
  9. Apply the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, especially related to the standards and principles of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Indigenous peoples’ need to be fully informed on all aspects of climate change as a condition for decision making.
  10. Financial mechanisms need to be increased for Indigenous participation in national, regional and international meetings, seminars, workshops and conventions on climate change and its crosscutting issues.

Submitted by Tom BK Goldtooth, IEN and GGJ delegate

At the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP: Reflections by Diana Lopez

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The International Preparatory Meeting for the Social PreCOP on Climate Change taking
place July 15 to July 18 will basically discuss the effects and causes of climate change but mainly its to create solutions though unity and education. Social Movements and the Venezuelan Government are coming together in Venezuela for a preparatory meeting in anticipation of the Social PreCOP happening in November. The meeting takes place on La Isla Margarita, which is part of Venesuelas Nueva Esparta state. Nueva Esparta means New Sparta, it was named after the Revolution for independence when native islanders fought until death, like Spartans, for liberation from the Spanish. La Isla is also where Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez converged on ALBA to unite the Caribbean and Latino America.

As US organizers prepare for the UN Climate Meeting in New York City this September this meeting comes together at a critical moment within the international movement for climate justice. Going back to the past four UNFCCC there has been great push against binding agreements that would force the worlds worse polluters to cut emissions. China, Canada and the US are among the countries that attempt to dominate the landscape in oder to continue extracting resources. Going back even further the US Government has played a key role in colonizing the economic and social structures of Latino America and Caribbean countries. Thus we go into this meeting with a deep analysis of our own country which also continues to create systemic structures that keep poor people, people of color from reaching justice.

Within in official UN international spaces there is always a lack of representation from the people most affected by climate change. Grassroots organizations/ civil society brings the solutions and understanding of how to live well in connection with mother earth. Venezuela sees the need to have civil society and youth present during meetings which is why there is a strong presence from Latino America’s base building organizations. However the reality is that there is a global south within the global north that is being left out of many international spaces. There is a strong force of people taking on climate change at the local level, building community owned energy, creating intergenerational community planning, and connecting the need to not only fight for environmental justice but also to address the economy, reproductive issues and governance.

Coming into this meeting there are may thoughts and questions that link our work and understanding of political and social movements.

  1. To begin there is a long political history around liberation and independence in Latino America that shifts the way conversations are developed and who is part of the discussion. We understand that power comes from the base, from people of color, farmers, women, indigenous community, and youth that have traditionally been left out of decision making space within the US and international spaces. Knowing the struggle and how the US has played a part of those movements is critical to building international relationships and developing united solutions that have systems change at the center. In general the GGJ delegation is looking to to deepen understanding among international allies of the ways that people of color, poor folks and Indigenous communities are negatively impacted by U.S.-led domestic and international policies and practices.
  2. Building relationships and solidarity movements are necessary to break down systems that keep oppressing our people. One of goals of the GGJ delegation is to deepen relationships with national and international groups who demonstrate understanding of the intersection between capitalism, ecology and justice and that work to address the causes and impacts of climate change.

Submitted by Diana Lopez, Executive Director, Southwest Workers Union

At the Venezuelan Social Pre-COP: Preliminary reflections by EMEAC’s representative

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As one of GGJ’s three delegates to the social pre-COP on climate change sponsored by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, i am glad to be part of the process of shaping, with others, the country’s official statement on climate change going into the 2015 negotiations.  Venezuela invited civil society organizations and movements from around the world to engage in this process as a way of inviting the voice of the people into what has become a very closed and corporate-led UN space. Though there are some questions circulating about the underlying intentions of the Venezuelan government and caution by people who know what it is like to be tokenized or have their work/ideas appropriated by larger bodies and institutions (be spoken for by them), one thing is clear; that this is a huge (though not unprecedented) undertaking deserving of note. Why? For one, the document that emerges from this process will be on par with those that other nations produce around the world, discussed and debated by world leaders.  Additionally, if its essence remains after the governmental ministers make their revisions in November (meaning that if it doesn’t get gutted of the essential parts that our organizations and movements bring), then the document will embody the lessons, expectations, hopes and visions of people who are harmed by and who fight against a system that exploits people and the planet.

I join Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Diana Lopez (Southwest Workers Union) on the delegation.  While here, we aim to  deepen relationships with national and international groups that work to address the causes and impacts of climate change; deepen understanding among international allies of the ways that people of color, poor folks and Indigenous communities are negatively impacted by U.S.-led domestic and international policies and practices; and build unity and support toward the Our Power national gathering (Richmond) and the People ‘s Summit (New York).  It is within a broader context, articulated above, that we seek to fulfill these aims.

As i represent GGJ in this space, i too represent the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) as we have some concrete organizational interests in so doing.  For one, we are able to share with and learn from other frontline communities around the world in ways that help to deepen our understanding of the global impacts of local practices, particularly of corporate polluters.  For example, in such spaces, we often meet folks who are at the points of extraction for raw materials that get processed and/or consumed in places such as Detroit.  Additionally, we are working alongside many – some of whom are political allies – to craft a draft document that will ultimately inform the official position that Venezuela takes during global talks on climate change.  So the experiences, stories and lessons we offer from Detroit will be a part of this process.

Finally, we are interested in meeting new global allies in the march toward system change.  In Detroit, where the struggles are intense, the fights are real and the enemies attack from all sides, it will help in the long run to link our struggles with those around the world. So that as we fight in Detroit, we are also fighting the same opponents in San Antonio, in Senegal, in Bolivia, in the Philippines and more; but we are doing it together, with strong voices and solid conviction.

Our work is significant over the coming days in Venezuela and back at home in Detroit.  A lot is required of us, but we’ve been prepared to take up the task and will do so with dignity, honor and respect of ourselves, our communities, those who’ve come before us and those who will follow.

I look forward to sharing more later.

Submitted by Ife Kilimanjaro, Co-Director, EMEAC