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Cancun summit fails to mobilise activists
By Soumya Dutta


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Activists march in Cancún during the UN climate change summit. (Photo courtesy:
Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Mexico, the host government of COP-16, has sanitised the tourist resort town of Cancun to such an extent that even public protests are petering out due to thin attendances. Today was the protest march demanding exclusion of World Bank and IFIs from climate finance, and a large no of groups joined in the call for this protest, organised at the Palacio Municipal (Municipal office) at downtown Cancun.

People started gathering around 9:30 am but the number of people taking part either in the march, or the protest meeting at the front yard of Palacio Municipal, were hardly anything to be inspired at. By around 11:40 am, when the symbolic burning of the Dollars and the ‘putla’ (effigy) of World Bank were performed, there were less than 150 protesters. Curious onlookers made up a few dozen more. The lovely songs rendered by the Mexican singer were spirited, but could not mask the lack of participation.

Considering that the call for this protest was given by large formations like Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth and many others, this was a rather sad spectacle. One could not stop comparing with Copenhagen, when on December 12, 2009, about 60 to 70 thousand or more people from all over the world joined in a day long protest and march that attracted world-wide attention. Four days later, on December 16, 2009, the Reclaim Power action was stopped by Danish police from entering the Bella Centre, but again thousand and thousands of committed activists were on the street, hand in hand, singing, demanding Climate Justice Now, reminding people and profit hungry businesses all over that "There Is No Planet B".

None of that spirit was visible in today's protest, though the gathered activists tried to put strength and action in what they said. But large masses of people are what needs to be mobilised, and the world's governments -- who must be watching this public actions, will not be worried by such a display. There were far more police than protesters present all over Cancun, and this tells a sad story.

Tough policing

The Mexican Govt has started using high handed repressive measure to even stunt peaceful voices of protest in any of the official venues of the Conference -- Moon Palace & Cancunmesse.

On December 3, the 'Bhopal Day', when the Indian collective Beyond Copenhagen took out a silent protest march with placards demanding justice (the march was joined by a number of people from other nationalities also, and was extensively covered), -- within a short time of protesters moving in Halls C & D, the UN security turned up and tried to prevent Sharad Joshi, who was wearing the Union Carbide mask, from carrying on. There was an argument, though that was resolved peacefully.

Yesterday, the well known leader of the Indigenous people, Tom Goldtooth (from North America), from the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) - was physically prevented from addressing a scheduled press conference inside the Moon Palace, the 7-star golf & spa resort that has been turned into the main official venue for negotiations. In spite of having UNFCCC accreditation valid upto 10th December, Tom was informed that he will not be allowed to speak, and was physically escorted out. This was a well planned move, as he was to address the media explaining the rights violations, land grabbing etc in the name of REDD / REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions through Deforestation & forest Degradation).

Most governments, and tagged-along businesses, are pushing very hard in this COP-16, for accepting REDD / REDD+ as valid mitigation measure through the approved channels (and not as part of voluntary reduction, as of now), as big money is changing hands between corporates in the global north and those in the south, with politicians and bureaucrats hoping to get a ‘fair-share’ of that. Indigenous communities, forest dependent communities, climate justice groups -- all are opposing this push, so that their forests are not sold off in parcels, and their rights violated -- in the name of climate solutions.

Soumya Dutta

Soumya Dutta is representing South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy (SADED) at the Cohabamaba Climate Conference.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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