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Youth Activists Protest Exclusion from U.N. Climate Summit in Cancún

December 08, 2010

Protests against the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancún are growing as civil society groups are frozen out of the talks. Yesterday, indigenous and youth groups demonstrated both inside and outside the summit to call for their inclusion in the negotiations. On Tuesday, activists from Youth for Climate Justice led a walkout inside the heavily guarded conference halls. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from Cancún, Mexico, at the U.N. climate summit. Protests against the COP16 are growing. Yesterday, indigenous and youth groups demonstrated both inside and outside the summit to call for inclusion in the talks. High-level negotiations involving environment ministers and world leaders are underway, but civil society groups say they’re being locked out.

La Via Campesina, the world’s largest federation of peasant and smallholder farmers, held what they called the 1,000 Cancúns Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. Several thousand people took to the streets here in Cancún to march in protest of the summit.

Meanwhile, inside the heavily guarded conference walls, La Via Campesina joined with activists from Youth for Climate Justice and held a news conference to announce the day’s actions. The youth activists then walked out of the conference room to hold a small protest. They spoke out against one of the hot-button topics being discussed at the talks: REDD, which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. The protesters were quickly met by U.N. security. They had their badges taken and were bused out of the conference. Democracy Now! was there to cover the action. It began inside the press conference room.

KARI FULTON: My name is Kari Fulton, and I’m representing Youth for Climate Justice. We are here as young people from North America representing impacted communities. We have seven people on the inside, and we have a whole bunch of people on the outside. And we are here to reclaim our futures, to make sure the voices of young people who will be most impacted by climate change are heard and are respected. There was supposed to be an action today. That action was canceled by — the YOUNGO was supposed to have an action today. They are silencing our voice as we speak. And we are here to say that is not right.

We are also here to say, where will you be in 2050? I know where I will be, and I want to live in a just and clean, sustainable world. And that’s what we’re asking for today as Youth for Climate Justice. We stand here in solidarity with the Global South, in solidarity with impacted people from around the world, in solidarity with La Via Campesina. We stand here today, and we have these signs on their necks that say "No REDD," because we want people to know that whether you live in the forest, whether you live in the hood, you will be impacted by false solutions. And REDD, REDD-plus, REDD-minus-plus, REDD-plus-plus, whatever you want to call it, is a false solution, because you are creating a market on our forests. You are not protecting our Mother Earth. And we are standing here to say that we want to see the protection of the rights of Mother Earth and the voice of the people to be respected. So thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED: So, this group is now going to have a walkout of the press conference all together.

SUNYUNG YANG: Stand up for campesinos!

PROTESTERS: Yeah, yeah!

SUNYUNG YANG: We say down with REDD!

PROTESTERS: Down, down!

SUNYUNG YANG: We say down with REDD!

PROTESTERS: Down, down!

SUNYUNG YANG: I said up with the people!

PROTESTERS: Yeah, yeah!

SUNYUNG YANG: I said up with the people!

PROTESTERS: Yeah, yeah!

PROTESTERS: We want justice Madre Tierra, one! We are the people, two! A little bit louder, three! We want justice Madre Tierra, one! We are the people, two! A little bit louder, three!

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 1: I need to speak to you. This [inaudible].

SUNYUNG YANG: [inaudible] person is over there. You should talk to him.

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 1: But I thought it was unauthorized, no? Did you ask the permission? Who?

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 2: Excuse me. You don’t have permission to protest, OK?

PROTESTER: We’re leaving.

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 3: I need your pass. Excuse me.

PROTESTER: We’re leaving.

PROTESTER: We’re leaving.

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 3: No, no, no. We need your passes. Give me your pass, please.

PROTESTER: We’re leaving. We’re getting on a bus.

SUNYUNG YANG: U.N., stop silencing civil society! U.N., stop silencing civil society! U.N., stop silencing civil society!

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 4: As I said, this was unauthorized. And I think most of you know what the process is for that. We provided some space for this.

SUNYUNG YANG: And we were turned out of the space. There was a youth action that was shut down.

Today’s action got canceled. That’s why the youth had to make an intervention today inside the space, where we felt the overwhelming concern that civil society’s voice has been suppressed at the UNFCCC meetings. You know, everything from the setup of how far away this is from the public, the space, that it’s in an exorbitantly priced, isolated golf resort that shuts out the public and civil society. I think it’s a sign of an undemocratic process that we’re seeing. What is the UNFCCC afraid of? The people? The people that they’re supposed to be making a decision around the future of the planet?

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 2: I think we gave you ample time here, OK? So I think [inaudible] —

SUNYUNG YANG: There was a registered action. We tried all the legal means. You’re shutting down the civil society by —

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 2: OK, ma’am. I’m not deaf. I can hear you. You don’t need to yell.

SUNYUNG YANG: I know. I’m not talking to you.


SUNYUNG YANG: — letting us — we have to register 48 hours in advance to register an action.

U.N. REPRESENTATIVE 2: We’re going to get you to the bus, so you can leave, OK? So we’re going to load you over here on the bus.


JOAQUÍN QUETZAL SÁNCHEZ: We have been ejected from the COP, just because we were expressing our dissent. In the entire process, young people have been silenced. Indigenous people are silenced in this process. Women are silenced. And so, we expressed our solidarity. We expressed our dissent and staged an action and have been ejected from the COP. Our voices are being silenced. The U.N. is not ready. The COP is not ready or willing or available to hear marginalized people from across the globe.

AMY GOODMAN: Joaquín Quetzal Sánchez with Youth for Climate Justice, and before that, Sunyung Yang of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. Special thanks to our Democracy Now! team who was there: Sharif Abdel Kouddous, as well as Hany Massoud and Steve Martinez.

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