(Scroll down for images. Text by VA.com)
Over 80 social movement organizations from around the world have converged on Margarita Island, Venezuela this week to discuss and debate climate change policy. The unique meeting, hosted by the Venezuelan government, brings together government ministers from 47 countries with 20 delegates from global civil society to negotiate a policy platform in preparation for next month's United Nations Conference of Parties (COP20) climate change summit in Lima, Peru.
The Social PreCOP gathering, held in the expropriated Hotel Venetur on the Venezuelan Caribbean island, kicked off on Tuesday. The gathering is one of a series of events that builds towards the 2015 meeting in Paris of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in which all countries will be asked to make binding agreements to address global climate change.
In July, social movements and youth from around the world gathered in Margarita Island to draft a climate declaration. Through work in small groups, large assemblies, drafts and re-write, the gathering produced a document, known as the Margarita Declaration, which outlined the key demands of social movements in the face of climate change.
In September, over 400,000 people filled the streets of New York City to demand climate justice, and to represent the voices of civil society during a United Nations Presidential Summit on Climate Change. Following the march, thousands of protestors took their action to the financial district of New York City in an action dubbed “Flood Wall Street.” According to a group website, the action was called “to confront the system that both causes and profits from the crisis that is threatening humanity.”
Despite disagreements in positions, and frustrations around process, participants in the Social PreCOP broadly recognized the significance of creating such a unique venue for participation and dialogue between governments and civil society. While some grassroots leaders thought Venezuela played too heavy-handed of a role in drafting the working document, everyone commended their bravery in opening up such a distinct and historic space for debate and discussion.
The slogan of the Social PreCOP is “change the system, not the climate.” While social movement leaders where not shy to mention the irony of the host country's vast oil reserves, most felt that hosting the Social PreCOP was a great use of Venezuela's oil money.
Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez represented Venezuela at the Social PreCOP and Venezuelan Lead Climate Negotiator Claudia Salerno, chaired the summit and closed the sessions by acknowledging that the process is just the beginning. The Ministers will meet in Lima next month for the last round of climate change talks before the 2015 COP21 in Paris, where binding agreements are to be made. Hopefully the urgency for action and the demand for justice expressed by social movements will be heard at the highest levels.