COP out?

15 December 2009

Will the doors slam shut at this highest-profile climate negotiations in Copenhagen this week? Will civil society, which has played such a constructive and vital role in the Conference so far, be left out in the cold by unjustifiable restrictions on access – well beyond the legitimate security needs of the Conference?

Accountability and transparency at these negotiations are a must, and cannot be secured without direct public participation. Civil society brings insight, oversight and connection to people around the world who depend on the work of NGOs to pursue the credibility of the process and integrity of the outcome.

The Rio Summit-derived Agenda 21 aptly observes: “One of the major challenges facing the world community as it seeks to replace unsustainable development patterns with environmentally sound and sustainable development is the need to activate a sense of common purpose on behalf of all sectors of society.” How can civil society get onto the same page if we’re not in the building when the real work is being done?

This meeting can go down as a milestone in human history, a watershed moment in the annals of participatory democracy. The Bella Center today is truly the world, earnestly at work on solutions to its most pressing problems. Implementing those solutions will require the active and direct mobilisation of government, business and civil society on an unprecedented scale. Any perception that the process is closed or rigged would severely undermine the prospects for success in Copenhagen and beyond.

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development affirms that “non-governmental organisations play a vital role in the shaping and implementation of participatory democracy.”

Excluding civil society would not only be inconsistent with UN Principles. It would be profoundly counterproductive to the spirit of the conference and the practical value of its outcome. To launch the world toward a sustainable future, the process over the critical next four days must be accountable and transparent so that the result will have the power of broad ownership by all sectors. Nothing less than the full and active participation of civil society can produce such an outcome.

Finally, this move goes against the aspirations of the UN Secretary-General himself who called upon civil society to create a movement and support the world’s governments to deliver the strongest outcome possible in Copenhagen.

Closing the door will give the perception that what governments are saying is a greenwash.  It was the public pressure generated by civil society which will soon result in more than 100 heads of state descending upon Copenhagen. Don’t let the reward for this outstanding achievement be a shut out from the Bella Center. Keep the doors open. Don’t COP out!

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