GCM Participation at COP20 — Lima, Peru

IMG_9481From December 6-8, GCM participated in the People’s Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Nature Tribunal, parallel events to COP20, in Lima, Peru. GCM participated as part of the Climate Space, a loose configuration of grassroots organizations globally that have been engaging in advocacy around the COPs for many years. Groups within the Climate Space used opportunities during the People’s Summit and tribunal to discuss next steps in the lead-up to COP21 in Paris, France next year.

Highlights from Lima

Rights of Nature Tribunal

The Rights of Nature Tribunal was led by a panel of 13 “judges” who heard testimonies from experts and witnesses from grassroots communities affected by climate change. Cases addressed the impacts of climate change, extractive industries, and deforestation, and included critiques of “techno-solutions” like Climate Smart Agriculture and geo-engineering. Accounts of displacement were shared in a number of testimonies.

  • A witness from the Brazilian Amazon discussed a hydroelectric dam project that will displace 20,000 people and affect the livelihoods of thousands more.
  • An anti-REDD campaigner from Liberia highlighted the damaging impacts of oil extraction and related inter-group conflict that has led to the displacement of many communities—what he called “climate refugees.”
  • Mention of migrant workers employed in extractive industries that are damaging indigenous lands in the United States highlighted the complexities of the relationship between climate and migration and the need for solidarity among all those affected.

WeCan Workshop (Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network)

The WeCan workshop highlighted the voices of women, particularly Indigenous women, who are often excluded from the COP negotiations. Participants highlighted women’s leadership in struggles for climate justice, linking these struggles to the wider struggles against colonial oppression and violence. Presentations highlighted the importance of solidarity with all affected communities.

Climate Space Discussions

Participation on the outside of the COP is the priority for Climate Space organizers, as there is a need to continue to build advocacy and international solidarity and to gain more clarity on the analysis of root causes and false solutions. This sentiment echoes GCM’s impressions from our activities in New York in September, 2014. There, GCM members expressed interest in engaging with civil society groups advocating for climate justice globally, with the aim of developing our collective analysis on the intersections between migrants’ rights and climate justice.

It was evident from the workshops and conversations among Climate Space groups in Peru that there is a need to deepen the current discourse on migrants’ rights and climate justice, which is currently focused mainly on the “climate refugee” concept. Bringing a human rights-based analysis into the discussion and highlighting the complexities of climate and migration will be important parts of our engagement going forward.

For Immediate Release: International migrant rights groups join New York climate march, urge durable solutions and human rights commitments in addressing climate crisis

Press Advisory, 21 September 2014

An international delegation of migrant rights advocates will join the massive People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 and the People’s Climate Justice Summit on September 22-23, 2014 in New York City. The delegation will promote greater collaboration between the migrants’ rights and climate justice movements while urging governments to adopt human rights and nature-centred solutions to the global climate crisis.

The representatives from Asia, Africa, Europe, Mexico and the United States are members of the Global Coalition on Migration (GCM), an international coalition of migrant associations and rights organizations, and advocacy, trade union, faith, and academic institutions.

Across the world, migrants and their families are among the many communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Those displaced by climate catastrophes are disproportionately farmers/rural populations, the working class, indigenous peoples, and communities of colour. Displacement of these populations will increasingly become a major driver of forced migration. For those forced to migrate due to climate crises, tough immigration laws, the intensification of immigration enforcement measures at borders, and the criminalization of migrant communities expose them to further hardship and exploitation.

For example, in Asia, extreme weather events continue to intensify in severity and frequency. An estimated 30 million people were displaced across Asia in 2010 alone due to the climate crisis;; this number will continue to grow with a lasting toll on lives, economies, and society. Social movements in Asia, including migrants, rural communities, workers, and women are calling for legally-binding and massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by all countries and the development of concrete, rights-based solutions based on respect for the integrity and interdependence of nature and people.

Mamadou Goïta of the Institut de Recherche et de Promotion des Alternatives en Développement (IRPAD) in Mali and representative of the Pan-African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights (PANiDMR), will testify on Monday at the People’s Climate Justice Summit tribunal, highlighting the intersection between climate change and migration in the African context.

Among the issues that the GCM delegation will address is the emerging use of the term “climate refugee” or “climate migrant” to describe those displaced by climate-related events. The GCM urges caution in the use of such terms, which risk oversimplifying the root causes of displacement — namely the the unjust global economic and political system that has given rise to the global climate crisis in the first place. The GCM further argues that this categorization creates a false hierarchy among low-skilled migrants from the Global South, who are subject to the injustices of the global economy that make migration necessary for survival.

According to Colin Rajah, GCM Coordinator, “Only through durable solutions for climate justice and guaranteed protections of migrants’ rights can a just transition to a safe, sustainable, and equitable economy and ecology be realized.”


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