Today I met with several South African civil society colleagues, from a range of organisations and sectors, here in Cancun – we are members of an interim planning committee established by a COP17 civil society preparation conference hosted by Earthlife Africa in Johannesburg in early November.
Earlier in the year, in July and October, the Heinrich Boell Foundation/Stiftung also hosted two similar, though smaller meetings in Cape Town. They served as briefings on the UNFCCC process and as tentative strategy sessions.
We are working towards another, broader civil society conference to be held in Durban, the COP17 host city, on 27/28 January.
Personally, I believe that SA civil society has two responsibilities during the COP (assuming that one believes in engaging with it, a legitimate debate of course):
- To ensure that the COP is democratic, transparent and accessible to both “insiders” (UN accredited parties and NGO observers) and “outsiders” (non-accredited parties who nonetheless have every right to express themselves on the issues the COP represents). Practically this means resisting any pressures to separate parties, observers and outsiders, excuses which will be made, if they are, on the basis of logistics and/or security. The SA government has promised a “People’s COP”: if they are serious, then we share a responsibility for ensuring that SA civil society and global civil society are very well represented in Durban.
- To settle on and fight for a clear set of principled and effective positions, and manage our own differences well enough so that those differences do not have the effect of shutting down some views.