by Moisés Flores Baca
Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a side event organized by the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST trust) titled “Rights for climate induced forced migrants: Responsibility of international community”. Even though it was not among the best side events I have attended here at COP16 thus far -especially due to incompetent facilitation- there were many interesting ideas brought up that I feel the need to share with you. One of the panelists -a representative from Greenpeace- talked about the fact that the impacts of climate change are being felt right now in many parts of the globe. He agreed with the CIA’s statement that the biggest threat to national security and the rule of law is going to be scarcity of resources that can lead to conflict. To support this argument he brought the Darfur conflict onto the table, explaining that at the bottom of the genocide ongoing there, more than ideologies or political perspectives, there is a fight over scarce land and water.
The speaker then said that Darfur is not receiving as much international attention as it should because the conflict is happening in Africa, too far from the developed world for it to truly care. He then asked what would the developed world be doing if Sudan was just across the border -of the developed world-, say, between Canada and the US? He also wondered if the developed world would be caring more if Bangladesh or the small island states were neighbors to them. From here he moved into talking about how there seems to be certain disregard for the citizens of the developing world by the developed world, as though those human lives had less value. He added then that it would be interesting, to get an idea of how much human life from different nations is valued around the world, to look at the number of countries that citizens in the developing world require visas for to enter. This would show how welcome or unwelcome those citizens are, and thus, how much their lives are valued.
The panelist then moved into explaining what we can do to start making a difference for those disadvantaged ones because of geographic location. He said that talking is important, since keeping an ongoing communication allows us to share ideas and feelings, helping us unite forces while fighting for common goals. However, he added, talking alone will not get us anywhere, hence we have to engage ourselves on meaningful actions . But actions that are too tame might risk going unheard: movements that for the government merely mean being able to tick the “civil participation” check-box without having to really change things are not good enough. Thus, we have to become more radical and participate of peaceful civil disobedience, not only because that is the only way our political leaders might actually make the needed changes, but because not doing it now and getting the things we so desperately need now might mean civil bursts of violence in the future that would just worsen things. To prevent future violent action we should undertake peaceful civil disobedience now.
The rest of the side event revolved around the proposal by the COAST trust of a protocol under the UNFCCC that stipulates that the rights of those migrants that will be forced to move due to flooding, droughts, and other extreme happenings produced by climate change have to be guaranteed. That they will be welcomed by the developed countries, bearers of the biggest part of the responsibility for climate change, and helped to integrate into the economy and society of the receiver countries so they do not become marginalized.
While addressing the climate change problematic it is essential to bear in mind that human life has to be our top priority.