People’s Voices On Climate Change: “Global Governance Is Not Working”
FRIDAY FILE: The World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (“the people’s summit”) was held from April 19 to 22, 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. More than 35,000 delegates representing civil society organizations and social movements from 140 countries participated.
AWID spoke with Ana Agostino, coordinator of the Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) about the conference, the Climate Justice Tribunals, and the next UN Summit on Climate Change in Mexico later this year.
By Gabriela De Cicco
AWID: What was the significance of this people's summit, especially in the context of the failure of the Copenhagen conference? What are some positive outcomes of the summit?
Ana Agostino: The official negotiations in Copenhagen, even before they failed, did not take into account the most fundamental aspect of climate change, which is that the current worldwide model of constant production, accumulation, growth and consumption is not sustainable. This fundamental fact was absent from the negotiations in Copenhagen. The people's summit, in contrast, offered the opportunity to substantially debate this and to think about alternatives outside of science, technology and the market, which are the only responses considered in the ‘official’ debates. The Cochabamba conference put the ecological crisis, with all its many causes, on the table and offered a diversity of perspectives on possible fundamental solutions.
AWID: One of the alternatives presented at the conference was the Buen Vivir (Living Well) concept. Can you explain what it is and how it was received?
Ana Agostino: The Living Well concept is an effort to build a way of life that is full, balanced, healthy, harmonious and modest, where human beings are considered a part of nature. This search for balance avoids several things, including exploitation of other elements of nature, the appropriation of material possessions and the domination of nature. In the Living Well concept, the economic actor respects the collective and is guided by the interest of the community rather than the interests of markets or individuals alone. Also, in this concept, commonalities are prioritized, calling into question what is assumed to be public and what is assumed to private, and therefore available for purchase or ownership.
During one of the panels on Living Well, Jiovanny Samanamud, the Bolivian Vice-Minister of Planning, suggested that it is not possible to think about living well at this period in time, because the concept deals with another era in world history and a type of actor that is not common today. Some attendees also worried that the Living Well concept could be co-opted and, for example, as a result within ten years the World Bank could start publishing regular reports on the progress of Living Well and its indicators. This scenario has happened before with the idea of ‘sustainable development,’ which originally referred to the ability to respond to the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This concept was quickly transformed into ‘sustainable growth,’ thus completely robbing it of its original content, which, among other things, ironically questioned "the sustainability of growth."
Living Well is a vision distinct from dominant materialistic logic and reveals alternatives, which can be conceived of and applied differently according to the specific realities in which they are rooted.
AWID: Many of the working groups' conclusions use gender-sensitive language but a gender-sensitive perspective is not reflected in the final document. Why is this?
Ana Agostino: The only reference to gender is in the second paragraph of the final document: "We confront the terminal crisis of a civilizing model that is patriarchal and based on the submission and destruction of human beings and nature that has accelerated since the industrial revolution."
The working group on structural causes of climate change also have this text in their conclusions.
Ana Filippini from the World Rainforest Movement has documented that many of the working groups submitted language with references to gender or the specific situation of women with regards to climate change. These include the working groups on migrants and on climate debt. The working group on indigenous peoples demanded the full and effective participation of vulnerable groups including women in climate change analysis and solutions. Meanwhile, the working group on financing demanded the representation of women in the new financing mechanisms. And the working group on forests, requested recognition for women's roles in preserving cultures and the conservation of native forests and jungles. It proposed the creation of a group of experts with at least 50% representation of women. While the final document is supposed to include information from the working groups, women’s organizations were not systematically involved in the creation of the final document, which raises persistent questions for women’s organizations about how we can strategically engage in all decision-making and policy development processes.
Still, Filippini also points out that many other efforts to incorporate a gender analysis are being made, including a report on gender tribunals and climate change that the GCAP Feminist Task Force will present, an event organized by the Red Latinoamericana de Mujeres Transformando la Economía (Latin American Network of Women Transforming the Economy), the declaration of Feminismo Comunitario Latinoamericano (Latin American Communitarian Feminism).
AWID: Can you tell us about the Gender Tribunals on Climate Justice and the problems they identified?
Ana Agostino: In Cochabamba, GCAP presented a summary of the problems identified by women who participated in tribunals organized by the Feminist Task Force and their colleagues in Botswana, Nigeria, Uganda, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Brazil. We also shared women's analysis of why these problems affect women differently and their recommendations to reverse the situation.
Problems are related to water (flooding, lack of access to potable water and to water for agriculture); the impact of food sovereignty and greater dependence on the market; unexpected climate changes such as prolonged droughts and out-of-season rains that render accumulated knowledge of climate conditions and how to act useless; coastal erosion; reduced harvests; lack of land; forest fires and forest loss; livestock and fish reductions; increased migration and higher numbers of refugees; lack of information about the consequences of climate change and its impact on women and poverty, and therefore lack of ability to respond; and lack of national policies to stop the consequences of climate change.
During the tribunals, women spoke about how they specifically are affected by climate change because more women live in poverty. Women are also more dependent on agriculture for their survival. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 70% of agricultural work is done by women, who produce 90% of cultivated food. Worldwide, women produce 50% of cultivated food. Women spend increasingly more time collecting water due to longer distances to water sources, which in turn reduces their opportunities for education, paid work and rest. The poor quality of available water impacts health, and women are the ones who care for the ill. They spend more time caring for the ill due to the increased cases of sicknesses. Many women live in areas vulnerable to climate change. Since most of them do not inherit land, and division of property reduces their economic power to respond to the challenges of climate change; this impacts their economic opportunities. Decreasing numbers of livestock also increase the economic dependence of women who rely on livestock for income. Also, as medicinal plants become more rare, many women are losing the ability to produce natural medicines.
AWID: What are the recommendations from the tribunals on how to address these problems?
Ana Agostino: Various recommendations were made, including:
- Governments should increase investment in agriculture in support of small-scale producers. They should promote the full participation of women in the creation of policies responding to climate change, including policies on the management of natural resources.
- Adaptation measures must include a gender perspective.
- Women's right to land ownership must be guaranteed, as well as access to training, extension services, supplies and credit.
- Traditional knowledge must be recognised, and the return to traditional methods of agriculture must be promoted, recognizing that women continue to be the custodians of this knowledge;
- The relationship between gender and climate change must be highlighted in the media and the arts.
Recommendations also pointed to the promotion of a sustainable living model. For example, the emphasis on education for creating sustainable societies; a change from being "owners" of the planet to being "caretakers"; the promotion of changes in the modes of production and consumption towards a development model that is in harmony with the capacities of the planet; putting into practice policies that empower women who are promoting sustainable ways of life; and the development of research into appropriate technology with a gender perspective.
AWID: What expectations do you have for the negotiations that will take place at the next UN summit on climate change in Mexico ?
Ana Agostino: The conference should result in an agreement that recognizes the infeasibility of continuing with the current model and that specifically reflects contributions from indigenous peoples, women and others as alternatives to consider in responding to climate change. I am not optimistic, however. I think that governments do not have the will to comprehensively address the realities resulting from a capitalist model and that they will be satisfied if they reach technical agreements to reduce emissions in the long term that will not change the current situation. As a result, my greatest hope is that we mobilize powerfully to expose this lack of political will. I hope this will lead to a more vigorous examination of the fallibility of the prevalent governance model worldwide.
Read more about the Cochabamba conference here.