Memorandum on the 16th of December COP15 action

Memorandum on the 16th of December COP15 action

Mass action at Bella center during the EU-Summit 2002, photo copyleft Tord Björk

This has been discussed among members in the climate group of the Friends of the Earth Sweden. It has not yet been discussed and decided in the board. As Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action have meetings tommorrow and day after tomorrow in Bangkok we saw the need to send this now to relevant email lists.

There has been raised some questions concerning the forms of the mass action at the Bella Center December 16 announced by Climate Justice Action

The following principle could be useful:

1. There should be a political goal with the action possible to achieve

2. The goal is to create a outside-inside action with the collective help of both people on the outside and inside which puts forward demands for social and global justice to the climate crisis.

3. UN in Denmark and also to many mass movements from the South has legitimacy.

4. The demand that COP15 becomes a temporary platform for collective voices from the outside and especially from the South is legitimite.

5. The pressure rich countries put on poor countries in the negotiations makes it necessary to use mass actions to support voices free from this external pressure from rich countries.

6. It is necessary that the action becomes predictable for the partcipants

7. It is helpful if the action becomes unpredictable for those resisting climate justice demands

8. A key to success is representatives from mass movements in the South as well as some few governmental delagations and radical NGOs inside the negotiations that support climate justice demands.

9. Another key is mass participation in the action

Environmental activists marching towards Bella center 2002, photo copyleft Tord Björk

These principles and the political goal is not possible to achieve with the way the decision at the CJA meeting in June has been presented. Firstly it is not practically possible for a mass action to completly take over the COP15 for one day. This both due to the legitimate response from the police on such a goal and the physical situation of the Bella Center which makes it impossible to come into the building the way that has been proposed. It has already been tested unsuccessfully at an EU Summit in December 2002. Furthermore many organisations supporting the climate justice demands of such an action sees the proposed form of the action as contraproductive and only resulting in violence. The necessary mass participation both from the outside but also from the inside will not be possible to achieve.

Become unpredictable to the opponents of climate justice

To become unpredictable for those opposing climate justice demands it is necessary to build on the unique possibilities to make a combined outside-inside action. An action were the main collective strength comes from the mass participation on the outside and the unpredictability from how well the legitimate concerns from outside voices especially from the South can get support from people in common and voices inside. The political price for the organisers of the conference has to be so high that they have to allow at least a core group with a majority of voices from the South of the mass manifestation to use COP15 as a platform for its message. The alternative if the possbilites to get inside will be exhausted and politically impossible in spite of pressure and on the spot negotiations is a mass meeting at the cordon at the Bella Center with people from the inside and outside making this in practice the temporary platform of the COP15.

To create a platform inside was possible at the UN Summit on sustainable development in Bergen 1990 for industrial countries. Here the conference venue was surrounded by demonstrators who did not allow the participants to go to a dinner. Finally persons from the movement against Union Carbide from Bhopal in India and one from an industrial country were invited to bring forward the message of the action at the conference. In Copenhagen the number of demonstrators and official delegates will be many more and the tensions between rich countries and some countries from the South more intense opening up more opportunities as well as need for well-informed choices. With an action that focus upon political goals and the dynamics that a mass action and inside-outside alliances can build it is possible to create a situation with the message that the solution to the climate crisis is only possible through social and global justice.

Become predictable for the participants in the mass action

To become predictable to participants, which among others movements from the South have requested, it is of importance with some measures. It is of importance to acknowledge that Danish authorities and political parties is escalating a repressive political climate against protesters. Thus the fine for confronting the police have been raised ten-fold, a new law making it possible to arrest people and temporarily move them have been implemented and the media is doing its best to present committed activists as violent. The police in general is known to be brutal and unpredictable at many occasions and the public known to not react much on such police brutality against protesters.

Firstly the kind of strict non-violence including not responding to escalation from the side of the police which was part of the decision at the CJA meeting in June is good. These principles have in practice been successfully used at the Shut it down action against a coal plant in Copenhagen when police but not demonstrators used some violence. This action was helped by the homogenous composition of the participants which will not be the case in December. The strict non-violence code of conduct is crucial in getting wide support for the action and limit the possibilities of the police to be brutal when the future of the world is negotiated at COP15 and voices from the outside have legitimate concerns to be heard.

It is necessary to demand a dialogue with the police to strengthen the political position of the action thus making participation more predictable. One cannot necessarily trust the police to follow what they say but the price for repressions against an action will be higher by demanding dialogue. If the police refuse and maintain an antidialogue policy which has been common in Denmark sometimes it is necessary to demand from political parties that this is maintained. It should be clear who is responsible for not wanting a dialogue. It is also useful to ask for permission to march to the Bella Center. But the question of allowance for the action is less important. The action have a legitimate concern and authorities should not be allowed to define if it can take place at the Bella Center or not. Allowance should be applied for and if not given demands should be put forward for a dialogue with the police.

Deescalate internal conflicts by acknowledging the outside-inside dynamics

Ways to further deescalate the polarisation and attempts at creating a split in the climate justice opinion can be counteracted also by other means. What creates the strength of the action is outside-inside action at the Bella Center and mass participation focusing on the legitimacy of the global majority. Thus supporting the Southern representatives in the action and rather dress up as Southern populations than in young militant European outfit could be a way to promote the goal of the action. Involving different groups in Copenhagen and international guests in making our demands and broad representation visible is importance to challenge the enemy image which our opponents tries to promote. There could be different solutions to get a broad involvement in the action. It is necessary to understand the need for take into consideration that the UN in Denmark is legitimate and to question the UN or the Summit as such will not get support. This is also the case for mass movements from the South. They make a clear distinction regarding WTO, G8 or other institutions which they often regard as illegitimate while the UN in spite of it short comings is seen as legitimate as an institution.

Tord Björk

Active in the climate group of Friends of the Earth Sweden/Miljöförbundet Jordens Vänner

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