Empty treaty, Empty centre
The Charter of the United Nations opens with the words "We the people," but with NGOs and civil society groups now excluded from the heart of the negotiations in Copenhagen, it’s hard to see just exactly where the people come into this discussion.
Copenhagen draws a diverse range of characters, from yoghurt-knitting hippies and balaclava-wearing activists, to billionaires looking to exchange money for influence and celebrities seeking meaning in their lives. There are corporate interests and personal vanity projects. And there are a lot of people, some of whom have travelled thousands of miles, who want to make a difference and play their part in what could and should be the meeting that defines the global trajectory of the coming decade. The desire to have civil society - in the form of NGOs and spokespeople - present at COP15 represents a desire for transparency and recognition of the fact that this is a global summit, the outcome of which will affect every person on the planet.
The Bella Centre, where negotiations are taking place, is now closed to all but a handful of NGO representatives. We have an empty centre and an empty treaty; journalists inside the centre have resorted to interviewing each other.
An ambitious 45,000 people were accredited with access to the negotiation centre, which only has capacity for 15,000. Even on a good day, queuing to get in took a number of hours. The will to let the people in is there, but mismanagement has led to misinformation and the voices of the people are not being heard. An alternative venue to house NGOs provided by the Danish government after access to the Bella Centre was restricted came too late and is far too far from the official centre to be meaningful.
It’s insulting, and is a physical manifestation of the general feeling within the organisers that civil society participation at COP15 is largely symbolic. Grass roots involvement is something to be tolerated rather than celebrated, and when the negotiations get tough we the people get pushed aside.