NGOs barred at Bonn climate talks

Developed and developing countries blame each other for not allowing civil society participation in negotiation process

By Aditya Ghosh

Politics of climate negotiations have taken a transparency twist, with developed countries surreptitiously accusing developing ones of not allowing the meetings to be ‘open’. The developing countries, however, claimed that they had little choice as the observers, mostly comprising international NGOs, would only help in quietly pushing the agenda of the developed countries into the negotiations acting as stooges.

It was the European Union which reportedly launched this clandestine attack on the BASIC and a few other groups of countries blaming them for not allowing observers in most of the meetings leaving little option for them but to be closed-door affairs.

Under United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries (or ‘parties’ as they are described) meet over four different forums – Ad-Hoc Working Group-Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP), AWG-Long term cooperation for action (AWG-LCA), Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and Subsidiary body of implementation (SBI). Parties have made various subgroups under each of these forums and these groups meet to resolve various issues regarding the negotiations. These meetings can either be open to observers – who are generally participants from NGOs, Inter Governmental Oranisations (IGOs) and the civil society – or closed if any party or parties object to their presence in a meeting.

This year’s mid-term negotiation meeting in the German city of Bonn has been accused of being mostly ‘closed’ with very few exceptions. While NGOs have been equating the lack of access in the actual negotiation processes as lack of transparency, parties have not shifted in their positions of not allowing access to observers in majority of the meetings across all the four forums.

“Some of the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, China and India) group members, along with countries such as Saudi Arabia have been consistent in objecting to the presence of observers,” said a negotiator from a developing country party.

An all-day meeting on transparency was held on Wednesday at which some governments sympathised with the NGOs. While the EU, Bolivia, Mexico, Australia came out in favour of more transparency and involvement by civil society, Saudi Arabia, India, the US and bizarrely Antigua and Barbuda voted to keep the meetings closed.

One of the developing country negotiators claimed that developed countries often use international NGOs to push their own agenda. “This makes it difficult for us to engage in meaningful discussions on what we consider to be in our national interest,” he said.

Civil society participation from the developing countries was limited which tilted the balance of the NGO campaigns towards developed regions, he said. “NGOs from our countries are not as many here and they don’t find place in various committees and forums. Most of these international NGOs don’t have any obligation to serve our national causes which our NGOs could have done,” he added.


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