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COP23 Response - We Will Not Negotiate On Mother Earth And Our Communities


As part of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) hosted in Germany under the leadership of a Fijian Presidency, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) spent two weeks on the ground engaging in intensive climate justice advocacy and action with a WECAN Delegation and diverse global allies.


While WECAN International retains its critique of the Paris Climate Agreement and the UNFCCC process as far from sufficient and based on false-solutions — which the climate justice movement must continue to expose and resist — we believe that it is valuable and impactful to maintain our strong presence at the UN climate talks so that we can make clear the root causes of the climate crisis; push back against corporate and capitalistic agendas; speak out against false and inadequate solutions; work to ensure that calls for women’s rights, Indigenous rights, Rights of  Nature, and the human rights of frontline and most-impacted communities are heard; and that just solutions rising up from frontline communities are amplified.


It is vital that grassroots, Indigenous and frontline women leaders have the opportunity to speak for themselves and present their struggles, stories, solutions, and poignant analysis directly to the policy makers whose action, and inaction, on climate change is impacting their lives and communities, and the well being of the Earth and all peoples. Helping create this advocacy space through our Delegation and the various events and actions that WECAN organized and hosted is one of our central goals and focuses throughout the UNFCCC process.


WECAN works to highlight crucial and unique messages to shift the narrative from complacency to action – bringing forward the urgency of the climate crisis  and the visceral and personal reality of daily climate impacts on the ground – and demonstrating that possibilities for climate justice still remain in the hands and hearts of women around the world.


As a member of the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, WECAN also co-organized the Fourth International Rights of Nature Tribunal that ran parallel to the UN climate talks, as an important avenue to actively demonstrate what an alternative, transformative legal system would look like – as well as how it could be a powerful solution to the climate crisis and environmental and social degradation (see the Rights of Nature section below to learn more!).

As an organization with an international focus and network, but a United States base location, engagement at COP23 critically meant standing with many groups to send an urgent message to the world that, even in the face of a climate-denying and reckless U.S. administration, people’s movements across the country can, and will, stand up for climate justice, sustainability solutions, and systemic change.


During COP23 we spoke out frequently on the need to reclaim our democracy, and participated in actions to draw attention to and resist the abhorrent actions of the official US Trump administration delegation at COP23, which spent the two weeks largely hidden behind closed doors, with the exception of a key event promoting “cleaner and more efficient” coal and nuclear energy as the country’s climate policy (more information below on civil society’s response to this ill-advised side event!).


In many different events and actions, another core focus of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network at COP23 was to address the alarming rise of violence and persecution against women land defenders and water protectors, and the collusion between fossil fuel companies and state actors in suppressing peaceful resistance movements. WECAN, along with movement allies around the world, will not stand idly by as temperatures continue to increase, and as Indigenous peoples and land defenders continue to be criminalized and murdered as they stand for a livable world for generations to come.


In analyzing the outcomes of the COP23 climate talks, we are glad to be able to report and celebrate the adoption by Parties of the Gender Action Plan’ (GAP), a policy item that was hard fought for, years in the making, and which provides an opening for forward motion and disruption of the flawed system in regards to gender equity and gender-sensitive climate policy.

The Gender Action Plan (GAP), which the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, allied Delegates, and allied organizations have advocated for with brilliant strength over many years, is designed to ensure that all climate action will include gender equality. Some of the goals of the plan are to increase the number of female climate decision-makers, support engagement of grassroots, local and Indigenous women, and hold trainings for policymakers on bringing gender equality into their agendas and funding mechanisms.


WECAN will be tracking GAP over the next few years to see how the plan is implemented, and if in fact grassroots, Indigenous and frontline women are truly engaged in a beneficial and meaningful manner, including seeing an increase in funding for women-led climate programs, and respect for women’s rights. The Gender Action Plan recommendation can be read in full here –  and more information is also available via Reuters here (featuring our WECAN Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake!).


The Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform was also adopted at COP23. This platform makes important calls for engagement of local communities and Indigenous Peoples knowledge and action in climate change, but is severely limited in that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are still not fully recognized nor protected, but rather, the platform states that governments need only “consider their respective obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.” The shortcomings of this plan stem from the reckless 2015 decision that Indigenous rights should be included in only the preamble, not the operative section of the Paris Agreement. Thus, we stand with our Indigenous allies in welcoming this small forward motion, but refusing to be placated with halfway measures.


It must be recognized that 80% of the biodiversity left on Earth is in Indigenous lands and territories, and that Indigenous peoples are putting their bodies on the line everyday to protect the land, water, air and diverse communities. First and foremost, the global community should be supporting Indigenous peoples because it is immoral and unjust that they face brutal violence as they fight to stop the destruction of their homelands and life-ways – however we also need to understand that everyone’s survival is interwoven and that we cannot live without water, forests and air.

It is paramount that we fight together for Indigenous rights as a central climate solution. For further analysis of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples, we direct you to an important press release from our allies at Indigenous Rising Media.


COP23 also saw the launch of the Ocean Pathway Partnership, which aims, by 2020, to strengthen action and funding that links climate change action with healthy oceans, including through the UN Climate Change process and via more explicit goals and ambitions in national climate action plans. WECAN will be keen to support allies pushing for a climate justice framework to the Ocean Pathway Partnership as we look toward 2018.


Importantly, we must also take stock on where we stand with action on carbon emission reductions, as December 2018 is the deadline for finalizing the rules and processes in a Paris Agreement “rulebook” for turning the ambition of  Paris into action. At the close of COP23, the Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) by governments to lower their carbon emissions are still dangerously off course, keeping the world on a catastrophic path to over 3 degree global temperature rise. Wealthy countries continue to avoid their historic responsibility, empowered by the thrust of the Paris Agreement, which relies upon carbon markets and techno-fixes which ultimately only impel the Earth further towards climate disruption through dependence on destructive extractive economies.


With all of this in mind, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network continues to demand that global warming must be addressed by confronting and transforming the systemic injustices of our political, social and economic systems as we work to heal damaged ecosystems. We will not negotiate on the well-being of Mother Earth or our communities – they are not commodities, but rather are sacred systems of life.


As we reflect on COP23, we reaffirm our commitment to bold action in the streets, in the forests, in our communities, and in the halls of policy makers. In every arena, from the ecological, to the social and political – this is a time for people’s movements to rise ever stronger to meet the great challenge of our time, and to re-build a just and a healthy planet which holds life for all, above profit of the few.  


Read on for a detailed recap of WECAN actions and events at COP23, including multimedia resources to explore and share.


 

Honoring the Work of Delegation Members


WECAN International was honored to facilitate and/or support the presence of an incredible group of frontline women leaders at COP23, who advocated for climate justice and each led and participated in powerful actions and events over the duration of their time in Germany.


WECAN International was honored to facilitate and/or support the presence of an incredible group of frontline women leaders at COP23, who advocated for climate justice and each led and participated in powerful actions and events over the duration of their time in Germany.

COP23 Delegates and longtime allies – Patricia Gualinga (left) and Thilmeeza Hussain (right), pictured with Osprey Orielle Lake of WECAN

Thilmeeza Hussain is a Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives, and leader with Climate Wise Women, Voice of Women Maldives and the WECAN Advisory Council. Over the second week of COP23, Thilmeeza represented WECAN at the daily meeting of the Women and Gender Constituency; made presentations  at WECAN’s public event and UNFCCC press conference and side event; and organized and took part it varied advocacy efforts and met with government leaders to share her powerful voice and demands as a woman leader of a small island nation facing dire climate impacts now.

Patricia Gualinga delivers an intervention during a high-level session at COP23

Patricia Gualinga, an Indigenous Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, participated in the WECAN, Amazon Watch and Indigenous Delegations during COP23 in her work to protect the Amazon Rainforest and advocate for the Living Forest Proposal of her people. During her time on the ground, she presented at all WECAN events; joined with global Indigenous allies in action and advocacy; spoke at numerous side events and press conferences; and delivered a high level intervention on behalf of civil society on one of the last nights of the climate talks. Watch and share her powerful speech here.


Nina Gualinga, also an Indigenous Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, participating in the WECAN, Amazon Watch and Indigenous Delegations, was present at COP23 as an Earth defender, as a voice for the Amazon Rainforest, the Living Forest Proposal of the Sarayaku , and as a mother. While participating in WECAN and many other events, Nina and her son reminded all present of what we are really fighting for, bringing passion, urgency and poignant analysis to all events and actions where she engaged. Watch her demand action to keep fossil fuels in the ground during a people’s movement action here.


As always , WECAN is deeply thankful to be collaborating with our long time allies at Amazon Watch in advocacy and action with women leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon.


Isabella Zizi speaking out during a US People’s Delegation action

Isabella Zizi, a Northern Cheyenne Arikara and Muskogee Creek youth leader representing Idle No More SF Bay Area and the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty, participated in COP as part of the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation, in alliance with WECAN. We were honored to hear from Isabella during our main WECAN public event, and on global news networks, as she spoke out and helped lead powerful direct actions to expose the dangers of the Trump Administration negotiating team; held an Indigenous Women’s Treaty signing and water ceremony; and spoke with Democracy Now! about the need to confront false climate solutions such as carbon trading within the UN process.


Our Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake, and Communications Coordinator, Emily Arasim, were both also accredited for the UNFCCC COP23, working diligently over the two weeks to advocate for climate justice, organize and participate in events and actions, collaborate with allies, and support and document the work of our incredible delegates.


 

Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – WECAN Public Event


WECAN was honored to present a key public event, inviting local Bonn residents and global leaders participating in COP23 to join together for an afternoon of inspiration, learning and movement building.


This public event was organized with the conviction that real forward movement towards climate justice depends on the full and equal participation of women in all stages of decision making and implementation, and that real change will come from women mobilizing and taking action at the local, national, and international level. Policy-makers and international advocates spoke alongside grassroots, Indigenous and frontline women leaders from around the world.


Click here to watch the full event livestream – and explore a few photo highlights below.


This event featured extraordinary women leaders – Honorable Mary Robinson (President of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, former President of Ireland), Bianca Jagger (President and CEO, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation; Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador); Noelene Nabulivou (DIVA for Equality; Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Fiji; Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, Fiji); Ruth Nyambura (African Eco-Feminists Collective, Kenya); Kathy Jetnil–Kijiner (Climate Change Activist and Poet, Marshall Islands); Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women; WECAN Advisory Council, Maldives); Kathy Egland (Hurricane Katrina evacuee/survivor; NAACP National Board of Directors, Environmental and Climate Justice Committee Chair, United States); Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Leila Salazar Lopez (Executive Director, Amazon Watch, United States); Nina Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Kalyani Raj (All India Women’s Conference Representative of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, India); Shannon Biggs (Co-Founder and Director of Movement Rights, United States); Precious Phiri (Representative of Regeneration International; EarthWisdom, Zimbabwe); Monica Atkins (Cooperation Jackson; Just Transition Organizer for the Climate Justice Alliance Our Power Campaign; Representative of #ItTakesRoots COP23 Delegation, United States); Dorothee Häussermann (Representative of the Ende Gelende Movement, Germany); Isabella Zizi (Northern Cheyenne Arikara and Muskogee Creek youth leader with Idle No More SF Bay; Earth Guardians Bay Area, United States); Varshini Prakash (Organizer with Sunrise; Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network; Representative of SustainUS, United States); Constance Okollet (Chairperson of Osukuru United Women’s Network; Representative of Climate Wise Women, Uganda); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Founder/Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, United States).

“Us women are not only going half-way, we are not doubting…we know what we want and what we want is to protect the life of the Mother Earth…We are bringing our own proposal, from the Indigenous vision, from the people, from our own reality – something that has been hugely missing from the context of conservation and this global discussion of climate change.” – Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador), with Leila Salazar Lopez – (Executive Director, Amazon Watch, United States)

“If we save Tuvalu, we save the world. But what is we don’t save Tuvalu?

What if bees and butterflies become extinct? What if our islands don’t survive?

Just who do you think will be next?

I’m taking you with me.  I’m taking you with me.”

– Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner, Climate Change Activist and Poet of the Marshall Islands opens the event with powerful words and her poem, ‘The Butterfly Thief’



“[We need to] have those really uncomfortable discussions between North and South social movements, and say, ‘truly, how are you truly changing your practice?’…. I do not believe in kumbaya politics, I don’t believe that we are all in this together, I believe that we have to have diverse bodies and powers, and movements that are willing to move this into something truly revolutionary….If we know that one person in an economic North space consumes 400 times the resources of a woman in Africa, that there is something so deeply wrong…and those conversations have to be had. And its tough for women together, but if no one else is going to do it, we need to be the ones that do it.” – Noelene Nabulivou – DIVA for Equality FIJI; Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Fiji (PPGCCSD); Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), Fiji


Noelene Nabulivou – DIVA for Equality FIJI; Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Fiji (PPGCCSD); Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), Fiji

“[We need to] have those really uncomfortable discussions between North and South social movements, and say, ‘truly, how are you truly changing your practice?’…. I do not believe in kumbaya politics, I don’t believe that we are all in this together, I believe that we have to have diverse bodies and powers, and movements that are willing to move this into something truly revolutionary….If we know that one person in an economic North space consumes 400 times the resources of a woman in Africa, that there is something so deeply wrong…and those conversations have to be had. And its tough for women together, but if no one else is going to do it, we need to be the ones that do it.”

– Noelene Nabulivou





 

WECAN COP23

Side Event and Press Conference


Inside of the UNFCCC COP23, WECAN held a formal side event and press conference, ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’ – featuring global women leaders Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women; WECAN Advisory Council, Maldives); Maria Nailevu (DIVA for Equality, Fiji);  Heather Milton Lightening (Treaty Four Territory, Pasqua First Nation; Representative of Indigenous Climate Action, Canada); Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Nina Gualinga (Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador); Leila Salazar Lopez (Executive Director, Amazon Watch, United States, translating for Patricia Gualinga); Precious Phiri (Representative of Regeneration International; EarthWisdom, Zimbabwe); India Logan Riley (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga People’s, Te Ara Whatu Aotearoa/New Zealand Youth Delegation member from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand); Constance Okollet (Chairperson of Osukuru United Women’s Network; Representative of Climate Wise Women, Uganda); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Founder/Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, United States)


Click here to watch the full ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’ press conference.


Click here to listen to the full recording from the side event.


Explore photo highlights and quotes below:


“Many women from around the world are here in Bonn to let governments know that it is far past time for a just transition to a democratized, decentralized, clean energy future. That is what is best for our communities around the world…And this is also a moment that tells us we must fight every harder for our democracy, including the right to stand up against the criminalization and murder of Earth defenders, which is on the rise across the world….Climate change is a threat to the entire world, but particularly to it’s women. Droughts, floods, infectious disease and food and water insecurity disproportionately impacts women and the global poor, the majority of whom are women, and when we analyze root causes, women experience climate change with this excessive severity because at a global scale, women’s basic rights continue to be denied. And yet while women are suffering, I think one of the most inspiring things about the work that we do, and the work of so many women in our networks, is that women on the frontlines are envisioning a world that is just, and they are putting their lives on the line to enact these global solutions.”

– Osprey Orielle Lake (Executive Director of the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, United States)


“Our islands are being washed away, and we are losing the biodiversity that sustains and nourishes us, and these corrupt governments, including my own, are the ones destroying this biodiversity…We are seeing because of climate change 200 to 500 thousand people dying every year. We are living this climate genocide, and we cannot pretend that this is not happening. We have to call it for what it is – it is a climate genocide, and this genocide is fueled by corporate greed and funded by the fossil fuel industry, an industry that has crippled our governments with their money and eradicated our democracies…. But we are not going to sit by…you are not going to gamble with the lives of our children – we will fight back and we are fighting back, we will do everything we can. Our children will not be climate refugees.” – Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women; WECAN Advisory Council and COP23 Delegation, Maldives)


What happens to the land happens to our women – we have something between three and five thousand missing and murdered Indigenous women that are unsolved cases in our country, and we believe this is a direct reflection of what’s been done to our land….and so I think there are a lot of challenges for us trying to figure this out, but we really believe in the power of our young people, the guidance of our elders, and the knowledge that we carry.”  -Heather Milton Lightening, Treaty Four Territory, Pasqua First Nation, Canada, Representative of Indigenous Climate Action, COP23 #ItTakesRoots and IEN Delegation



“I come from a family of very strong women who have been defending the Amazon Rainforest, and since I’ve been here at COP, I’ve really been asking myself, ‘why am I here’, and the reason that I am here is really for my son…And I have also been asking myself why the governments are here, why the corporations are here, and I think that more than anything, they are here to negotiate, thats what it is called, ‘climate negotiations’…but how can we negotiate with the climate, how can we negotiate with our future?” – Nina Gualinga (Indigenous Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, participating in the Amazon Watch, Indigenous and WECAN Delegations)



Speakers stand together in solidarity following the COP23 press conference, ‘Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’

 

International Rights of Nature Tribunal

COP23 Advocacy and Report Release


A woman leader from Bolivia opens the case on TIPNIS

Over the course of two days at the start of COP23, a global coalition of people’s movement leaders organized by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature convened to hold the Fourth International Rights of Nature Tribunal, in parallel to the UN climate talks.


Rights of Nature Tribunals are a unique, citizen-created initiative which give people from around the world the opportunity to testify publicly on destruction of the Earth and their communities, while advancing and demonstrating the possibilities of an alternative legal framework for justice and living in harmony with the world and each other. Over the course of the Tribunal, powerful testimonies were shared by global leaders on topics including oil extraction and deforestation; prosecution of Indigenous and land defenders; global trade agreements; industrial agriculture; mega-dams; false climate solutions; financialization of nature; and much more.


WECAN co-organized the Tribunal, and ongoing Rights of Nature events as a member of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature Executive Committee, and WECAN’s Executive Director served as a judge to the Bonn Tribunal climate change case.


Though the tribunal and final case judgements do not have official legal implications, they do provide political power and strong persuasive value, and many cases were amplified and heard far outside of Bonn, including serious responses from the media and political leaders concerning the Tribunal’s preliminary analysis and recommendation for the TIPNIS development in Bolivia. We will continue to report back on this and other cases, including the release of formal closing comments and recommendations for each case, coming soon via the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature webpage.