Civil society has been left with little choice but to spend the last three days camping out in the basement of the conference centre. Despite the strong objections of the G77+China and Mexico—that’s 135 Parties out of a possible 195—the co-chairs have still barred observers from the negotiations. Rumours abound when all that can be done is wait for scraps of news, often delivered third- or fourth-hand.
The decision to exclude observers is troubling for three reasons. First, the co-chair’s justification rewrites history. They stated that this is the process we agreed to in Doha. Some Parties repeated this due process argument. In reality, the SBI in Doha did not consider the participation of observers. The only relevant decision of the SBI actually encourages public participation; it recommends, at a minimum, that where no contact group exists, observers attend the first and last meetings during informals. It provides a floor for observer participation, not a ceiling.
Second, excluding civil society runs counter to the international principles and norms surrounding public participation. The Convention itself provides that Parties: “shall … encourage the widest participation in this process, including that of non-governmental organisations.” The negotiations leading to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, a supplement to the UNFCCC’s sister convention, the CBD, involved stakeholders through the entire process.
Third, the decision ignores the vital role that civil society and indigenous peoples play in the negotiations. Contrary to Japan’s argument, the absence of stakeholders is what truly impedes effective negotiations, not their presence. We provide technical support, thought leadership, bridging solutions, and amplify the voices of the people who are most vulnerable to but least responsible for the climate crisis.
We have deep appreciation for the Parties that continue to advocate to #keepusintheroom