Climate Change — Women, UNSG urgency now
Critical voices at Conference of Parties (COP17)
Re-reporting, editing by Carolyn Bennett
Tibetan women speak
Old ways essential
Termed by the scientists as the ‘Third Pole,’ owing to its storage of glacier ice and its status as a reservoir for the world’s largest rivers which feed one billion people in 10 downstream countries in South East Asia, Tibet now faces a rapid ecological disturbance, said Tibetan women at COP 17.
“Despite the climate-change crisis, China has begun constructing mega-dams and water diversion projects to capture and redirect water from India and South East Asia to its increasingly thirty provinces.”
Human Rights emergency
“The forcible removal of all of Tibet’s 2.25 million nomadic herders by China under the pretext of conservation has caused a human rights emergency. This crisis has cropped up despite scientific evidence that proves that nomads have a positive role in promoting a balance in the ecosystem, diversity and resilience.”
Grenada’s UN ambassador, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States speaks
Small Island nations need destruction stopped now
Speaking from COP 17 with Democracy Now producer Amy Goodman in Durban, South Africa, Ambassador Dessima Williams said, “Waiting until 2020 … is a nonstarter.”
Last year “was the hottest year on record and the impact on our countries, our island states in particular, is intolerable — for water supply, food, health. The sea-level rise is going to swallow up more of our islands. Waiting until 2020 to regulate the system is certainly a nonstarter here.
“The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) along with the Least Developed Countries Group has been pushing for more immediate and urgent actions in the negotiations as a whole, and particularly with regard to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Dessima Williams acknowledged the political influence of individual nations but kept the voice of urgency, impact and effort focused on small and island nations. “Every country is playing according to its own national politics,” she said. “The politics of the U.S. has to be discussed with U.S. politicians.
“For the LDCs [Least Developed Countries] and the island countries, our national politics have to do with our existentialist survival — that the islands are experiencing floods and hurricanes and typhoons.
“The African continent, the Asian countries are experiencing, expecting droughts and floods — all of which are unusual compared to the pre-industrial period; and all are attributed to the escalation in the temperature of the earth.
“Here at the United Nations are 107 countries that we represent together …, who know that there is a threat to our food crops, to our healthcare, to our coastal regions — so I don’t think you will find among us any climate deniers.”
Looking across the globe, Williams said, it is not only the least developed and island countries. “In Thailand, in Russia, in Los Angeles—everywhere in the world — we are having these unnatural and abnormal weather systems.
“We have a regime in place that can respond to it so we are calling for urgency. We are calling for effective response that will protect the most vulnerable right away and protect everybody altogether.”
Rural Women of Southern Africa speak
“We’ve come to join other rural women farmers from the southern African region,” said Thandiure Chidararume, a member of ActionAid, an international organization that helped bring together a meeting of the Southern African Rural Women’s Assembly.
“We have come as one voice from Africa. We are saying ‘no’ to damning deals. Africa is not for sale. We want this air pollution that is causing climate change to stop now.”
Director of the South African Trust for Community Outreach and Education Mercia Andrews, in solidarity with the Rural Women’s Assembly, is reported saying, “We have a responsibility, we have to begin to mobilize and we have the power. … We have shaken this country before, we brought down apartheid; now is another turn.
“This is a bigger struggle, a more important struggle and this is a struggle that we must unite around. We must say, ‘No to climate apartheid.’
The Rural Women’s Assembly published demands.
Destroyers called to account, honor human rights, get serious about climate change
A climate deal that will take meaningful steps to halt the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions. Historical emitters who are responsible for 75 percent of GHGs [Greenhouse gases] must face trade and investment sanctions if they refuse to cut emissions, particularly from African governments. Africa contributes least to climate change but is the worst affected.
Proper recognition of women’s critical role — despite widespread violation of their equal right to land — in fighting climate change and protecting livelihoods and the environment. Equal rights to land and natural resources are critical to fighting climate change. Further, that governments implement the principle of 50/50 land to women through a radical program of land redistribution and agrarian reform.
Financial support for women farmers commensurate to their numbers and crucial role — women produce 80 percent of the food consumed by households in Africa; 70 percent of Africa’s 600 million people are rural. We stress that adaptation strategies and building resilience starts at the household level. Governments must address the crisis in the care economy in order to build resistance to climate change. Further, that 50 percent of funding training and other support to agriculture go to women farmers secured by a special allocation within the Green Climate Fund and public budgets.
Climate change solutions put indigenous knowledge systems at the center of policies to promote biodiversity, to rehabilitate our ecosystems and to rebuild the livelihoods destroyed by colonialism, apartheid and economic imperialism. Rural women are the holders of indigenous knowledge — our marginalization from economic production, scientific knowledge generation and social systems has resulted in the steady loss of such knowledge to Africa, thereby making us more vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
An end to false climate solutions, which are resulting in a deterioration of our environments, the destruction of marine life as well as land and resource grabs and the takeover of food systems by corporations and speculators. We reject the participation of Africa in carbon markets, GMO projects and biofuels farming. Climate change can be addressed [seriously] only by changing the current economic system, which encourages unsustainable resource extraction and consumption.
“We commit ourselves to continue forward with the struggle against the injustices of climate change and to build our movement to end the shameful marginalization of rural women,” said the Rural Women’s Assembly of the Southern Africa region. “We will continue to strive for the re-creation of equitable vibrant, prosperous and healthy rural communities.”
For all on the planet, UN Secretary-General laid out the global case, cause and challenge
Taking his turn at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP17, dais, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday reflected on the job that takes him around the world. In one of his travel stops on the Pacific island of Kiribati, Ban Ki-moon said he met a young boy who said he was afraid of sleeping inside his home at night — afraid of being swept away by the tide.
The boy’s land, his island “is slipping beneath the waves,” Ban Ki-moon reported to the Conference of Parties; and “there are many such islands in the Pacific and elsewhere.
“In the Andes and the Alps, I have seen melting glaciers. At both of the Earth’s Poles, I have seen open sea where ice once dominated the horizon. I have seen arid lands wherein the sun once shone on mighty rivers and great lakes — in the Amazon, flying over Lake Chad in the African Sahel and flying over the Aral Sea on the vast steppe of Central Asia.… Last month, I flew over miles and miles of devastated virgin forest and peat land in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
“I have met, personally, with thousands of people who have lost all they had to catastrophic floods and spreading deserts.”
He then asked, “Is this the future we want?”
“The science is clear,” he said.
“The World Meteorological Organization has reported that carbon emissions are at their highest in history and rising. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us, unequivocally, that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by half by 2050 — if we are to keep the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees since pre-industrial times. According to the International Energy Agency, we are nearing the ‘point of no return,’ and we must pull back from the abyss.”
To the Conference of Parties, the Secretary-General challenged, “You are the people who can bring us from the edge. The world is looking to you for leadership. Everywhere, people ask me for help — they ask for our help as the United Nations — as nations, united.
“We must keep up our momentum. That is the challenge before us today. That is the imperative. It is difficult to overstate the gravity of this moment. Without exaggeration, we can say the future of our planet is at stake: People’s lives, the health of global economy, the very survival of some nations.
“A world of out-of-control climate change, a devastating scarcity of vital resources? A world divided bitterly between rich and poor, between the vulnerable and the privileged — is that what you want? Or do we want a sustainable future that fulfils the promise of the United Nations Charter?”
The exact path may not be clear but the answer is clear, Ban Ki-moon said. “We all recognize the realities of our time: the economic crisis, the dictates of fiscal austerity, often difficult domestic politics. Yet the world and its people cannot accept ‘no’ for an answer in Durban. To the contrary … now is the moment to be ambitious.”
Sources and notes
“Tibetan Women Speak out on Climate Justice for Tibet at UN Conference,” two members of Tibetan Women’s Association [Tenzin Woebum, Head of Women’s Environment and Development Desk; Tenzin Dolma, Joint Secretary of TWA] representing Tibet Third Pole are participating in the two-week Conference of Parties (COP17), an undertaking of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Durban, South Africa, posted December 6, 2011 by Rajeshwari K, The Tibet Post International http://www.thetibetpost.com/en/features/environment-and-health/2227-tibe...
“Least Developed Countries, Small Island States Face U.S. Resistance to Binding Climate Deal,” December 7, 2011, http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/7/least_developed_countries_small_is...
Dessima Williams is chair of the Alliance of Small Island States and Grenada’s ambassador to the United Nations [also on the Democracy Now segment was Pa Ousman Jarju from The Gambia is the Chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group].
Dr. Dessima Williams, chair of AOSIS Bureau and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations
Dr. Williams’ diplomatic service includes serving as Grenada’s NGO observer/delegate to various General Assembly sessions; NGO delegate to the 1995 Fourth United Nations Conference on Women and NGO Forum in Beijing; and NGO delegate to the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, also in 1995. She serves on the board of the Inter-Agency Group of Development Organizations in Grenada, and the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.
She is author of the report Gender Dimensions of HIV/AIDS in Grenada; and co-author of a multi-volume report to the United Kingdom Department for International Development, Realization of Human Rights in the Caribbean Territories (2002). Her academic credentials include a doctorate in international relations and master’s in international development (American University, Washington, D.C.); international relations baccalaureate (University of Minnesota)
Dr. Williams has extensive academic experience as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Brandeis University (2003 to 2006); visiting Professor at Florida Atlantic University (2002); and Jacob Ziskind Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology (Brandeis, 1992-1995). http://www.sidsnet.org/aosis/bureau.html
The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. AOSIS functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for small island developing States (SIDS) within the United Nations system.
AOSIS has a membership of 42 States and observers drawn from all oceans and regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Pacific and South China Sea. Thirty-seven are members of the United Nations, close to 28 percent of developing countries, and 20 percent of the UN’s total membership. Together, SIDS communities constitute some five percent of the global population.
Member States of AOSIS work together primarily through their New York diplomatic Missions to the United Nations. AOSIS functions on the basis of consultation and consensus. Major policy decisions are taken at ambassadorial-level plenary sessions. The Alliance does not have a formal charter. There is no regular budget, nor a secretariat. With the Permanent Representative of Saint Lucia as its current chair, AOSIS operates, as it did under previous leadership, out of the chairperson’s Mission to the United Nations, http://www.sidsnet.org/aosis/about.html
News from AOSIS December 1, 2011 — “AOSIS rejects delay until 2020, demands urgency for climate agreement,”
Durban, South Africa – The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) says it will not accept outcomes at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17 that propose to delay any new binding agreement or more ambitious emissions reductions until 2020, as these cannot safeguard livelihoods and guarantee the survival of our nations.
Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States Dessima Williams urges negotiators to uphold the Kyoto Protocol (AFP/File, Attila Kisbenedek), http://aosis.info/2011/un-talks-start-in-panama-on-climate-deadlock/
Statement of Grenada’s representative to the United Nations: “Countries that are serious about addressing climate change should be using this meeting to raise, not lower, expectations for Durban.”
AFRICA’S RURAL WOMEN
At Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Durban
The Southern African Rural Women’s Assembly unites women’s farming and agricultural unions and movements from around the world. The women’s assembly is mostly skeptical about whether governments are acting on their behalf. They say COP17 conferees “are not acting in the peoples’ interest.”
Women’s movements in Latin America have also expressed solidarity with the African women’s assembly.
Caption: Members of African rural women's movements gather in Durban, South Africa to rally for progress at the nearby U.N. climate summit, November 30, 2011. (Photo VOA - Gabe Joselow)
Memorandum from the Rural Women’s Assembly to the UNFCCC, the government of the Republic of South Africa and the Governments of Africa, http://www.climate-justice-now.org/memorandum-from-the-rural-womens-asse...
Free Speech Radio News “At climate talks U.S. inaction prompts activists to shift strategy as deforestation plan debated” [News Segments Tuesday 12/06/2011, MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)
Climate talks in Durban, South Africa, entered their high-level phase, which means negotiations between more senior officials with more power to cut deals. Attention is turning to efforts to protect the world’s forests. This is seen as a key part of fighting climate change but the strategy so far has yielded mixed results. http://fsrn.org/audio/climate-talks-us-inaction-prompts-activists-shift-...
“Remarks to High Level Segment of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17” [Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Durban, South Africa], December 6, 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/infocus/sgspeeches/statments_full.asp?statID...
Sahel (Arabic Sāḥil), semiarid region of western and north-central Africa extending from Senegal eastward to The Sudan. It forms a transitional zone between the arid Sahara (desert) to the north and the belt of humid savannas to the south. The Sahel stretches from the Atlantic Ocean eastward through northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, the great bend of the Niger River in Mali, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), southern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, south-central Chad, and into The Sudan [Britannica note]
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