“I have spent most of my time at the Klimaforum09: the alternative conference set up by Judi online terpercaya four paid staff, which 50,000 people attended without a hitch. I know which team I would put in charge of saving the planet.” George Monbiot.
The massive clouds of criticism surrounding the COP15 climate summit have hidden a success story that must be told. It is the story of Klimaforum09 – the alternative climate summit.
There never was any doubt that Klimaforum09 would play an extremely important role in December, as the stage was set for a closed COP15 conference with highly restricted access. Klimaforum09 not only added to the seriousness of the climate discussion, but also played an important part with a hyped police force and as an important logistic partner to the official conference.
Klimaforum09, which took place in the centre of Copenhagen demonstrated the art of the possible and surprised many who had not recognized or understood the need for an open space where all were welcome.
Judi online Openness
Klimaforum09 was organized by a wide array of Danish and international grassroots and opened and closed with its prestigious cousin – COP15. The 12 days of the alternative summit featured 202 debates, 70 exhibitions, 43 films, 16 concerts and 11 plays. Present were all from Europe’s most sophisticated band Ojos de Brujo to the small traveller with her guitar; from the five professors and their seminal Synthesis Report to the Greenland sealers that no longer can count on the ice; from the people behind Age of Stupid to Vandana Shiva who had brought her own fresh new film, shot among the melting glaciers of the Himalaya.
Most important for Klimaforum09 were people from the global south and their accounts of what it means to live under extreme conditions such as long droughts and the impending peril of ocean acidification. The diversity of narratives was overwhelming and amazed widely. But the simple fact that there existed a space in Copenhagen where these narratives were heard and listened to became, as days passed, the most important factor. The situation at the COP15, where the word “Bella” had lost its positive meaning, amplified this need. At Klimaforum09, doors were wide open every day from 10:00 to midnight and all activities were free.
The number of participants at Klimaforum09 was eerily reminiscent of that at COP15, but the resemblance went no further. The stories of people waiting in line outside Bella Center for 10-12 hours in freezing weather and without food or amenities, before being allowed inside or simply turned away, are all too well known. At Klimforum09 there was no queue, because people’s sincerity was not put into question. Passing through the doors was equal to a desire to contribute to the important debate, which was exactly what we wanted.
Approximately €160 million were spent on holding COP15. Half of this amount accounts for the massive police presence, leaving €80 million to a political climate change debate and a Copenhagen Solution. Now we know that there was no Solution, but only a so-called “Accord”, which no one seems to really agree on.
Klimaforum09 worked with a budget of just over €1 million plus some borrowed meeting rooms as its secretariat.
The large NGOs came
As the days went along and it became clear that COP15 had to turn away NGOs, freelance journalists, and others that had been accredited, Klimaforum09 received a call from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry wished to use one of Klimaforum09’s main venues called Øksnehallen – a space with room for 2,500 people – to receive the expelled NGOs.
Originally the idea was to use Øksnehallen for events with unusually high attendance, for spontaneous meetings and as a kind of safety valve for whatever would arise out of bubbling Copenhagen. Our view was that everyone except police in riot gear was welcome in Judi online terpercaya ’s warm halls, and this of course applied to WWF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and all the other affluent NGOs that had chosen to use their resources inside the Bella Center http://linedomino.com/.
Towards the concluding part of COP15 thousands of excluded accredited guests from Bella Center continued their work in Klimaforum09’s cosy atmosphere. The only requirement from Klimaforum09 was to be informed of larger gatherings and special needs, as it simply was a requirement for general security and for our management of the use of the facilities.
Klimaforum09 received neither money, nor acknowledgement, for its unquestioning naturalness in receiving thousands of extremely frustrated activists from NGO circles, who, according to themselves, were about to burst out in anger.
The €80 million that were spent by the police says something about the Danish authorities’ level of understanding. With simple openness Klimaforum09 showed an alternative and much more inviting approach.
In general the media had done anything they could to create fear amongst the Copenhagener. The Danes were told that the police prepared themselves to fight large numbers of violent activists. It was as if Copenhagen was expected to burn down to the ground for the third time in history.
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At no time did Klimaforum09 see demonstrating activists as a problem. First and foremost a demonstration should be seen as a right. In a democracy any right deserves to be listened to, which is where Klimaforum09 persistence in having an open space ready for any argument comes in. When you from official side choose to handle demonstrations as a problem, you also to a large extend choose to ignore the core message in the demonstration. That creates a sense of powerlessness, that is not worthy in any democratic context.
Two out of 6,000
Instead of a blind focus on activists the challenge Klimaforum09 faced was that of drug addicts and pickpockets at the nearby central station. Therefore Klimaforum09 agreed to the presence of two uniformed police officers at the venue. When mentioning the two officers, it should be noted that it was two out of the 6,000 that were on duty during the climate summit in Copenhagen.
Every day a police meeting was held. The purpose was to go over the Judi online terpercaya current challenges together and find solutions. Fortunately the druggies and thieves stayed away, but as it turned out we soon realized an unexpected challenge – namely what is best described as stray riot police officers who insisted on interring the venue and, as it ridiculously was argued, participate in the climate debate regardless of their dress code. Note in this connection that the police itself categorised the Klimaforum09 venue as a low security zone throughout the COP15.
Today an absurd fact remains. If Klimaforum09 had not had back-up by two police officers and a set of direct phone numbers to high ranking police officers, the conference would have been invaded again and again by riot police who personally (and provocatively) saw every gathering as a threat. Copenhagen must have looked like a battle zone to them.
Working with the frustration
The police clearly consider that the masse arrests during the demonstration on December 12th were unfortunate, but that the situation could have been much worse. Though recognition still remains to be heard there should be no doubt that Klimaforum09 played a central role after the demonstration and also on December, 13th, 15th, 16th, and 17th, channelling the frustration felt in Copenhagen in a constructive way rather than allowing it to simply explode.
COP15’s multidimensional collapse did not make Klimaforum09’s work easier. A leader of one of the large NGO networks unexpectedly announced on December 17th that he was afraid that the frustration among his people had become so intense that he no longer could answer for their actions. At the moment it seemed like COP15 had planted a living bomb inside the alternative climate summit.
Today, Klimaforum09 can pat itself on the back and recognize that its role was absolutely indispensable – not because Klimaforum09 had any control over events in the streets, but because the conference stayed accommodating and welcoming, listened, and credibly and reliably opened the doors.
Lesson to the high-handed males
It is important not to praise oneself simply because things could have gone worse, but rather to concentrate on what could have been done better. Let this also be a reminder to the police regarding its future work and continuous talk about improving the dialogue. It makes absolutely no sense to work half a year on an agreement of corporation with the police and then find out that you have to engage in silly arguments with an army of provocative combat ready officers, who is astray. There are clearly too many high-handed males in the Danish police force, for whom a healthy training in social intelligence would do the utmost good.
€80 million is a lot of money in very many contexts. The existence of Klimaforum09 showed how exaggerated and hyped the police work was, which on numerous occasions was characterized by ignorance or just simple nervousness. Klimaforum09 showed how get things to run even when presidents announce their arrival. One late afternoon, President Nasheed of the Maldives walked in through the main entrance to see the exhibitions. The two policemen stayed away and everything went smoothly, watched only by three smiling security guards.
Towards higher ground
Because of a grotesquely low budget, the starting point for Klimaforum09 was a hardworking group of four who did not get going until all of Europe went on summer vacation in 2009. At that time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been working on COP15 for over a year Judi online terpercaya and a half. With help from internships, the secretariat grew and consisted in the end of twenty dedicated women and men. In addition to the twenty, one must not forget to mention the 400 volunteers who really slaved away in December and helped to make Klimaforum09 a unique experience free of Coca-Cola commercials and energy companies who speak with a forked tongue. Without these altruistic volunteers, the ship would have sunk. With the companies we would have lost our integrity.
Thus Klimaforum09 became the place where people could follow the COP15 process, find expert answers and discover alternative solutions, that deliberately was kept out of the political negotiations. The openness offered by Klimaforum09 provided a much needed sense of democratic organization.
The lesson to be learned from the contrast between the Klimaforum09 and COP15 budgets is that you can not buy quality. Fancy meeting rooms at €160.000 apiece at COP15 did not guarantee that things worked. It was still just a meeting room. Klimaforum09 brought people together. No one came to be serviced. People came to participate and herein lay the differences. Klimaforum09 participants had the opportunity to be part of it all. Not a single door was closed. So few resources and tens of thousands of committed people in and out?
Klimaforum09’s experience concerns the entire UN system and is about dialogue and openness. If the UN wants to maintain popular involvement in solving the climate crisis, there is only one way to go and it starts and ends with two-way communication. Involvement is about the opportunity to be heard and listened to. The alternative is failure to understand the severity of the crises that people everywhere are facing. How are people supposed to make the solutions their own if they do not understand the seriousness of the problems?
Klimaforum09 could talk for a long time about what happened and how things were handled, but the important question is surely: how do we proceed from here?
At Klimaforum09, we are now talking about contributing to a Klimaforum10 in Mexico in connection with COP16. It is of course the Mexicans themselves who will be responsible for bringing together civil society and even find a suitable place. But Klimaforum09’s basic experience, in particular regarding the importance of having a place where everyone is welcome, is fundamental for further work. The UN should recognize this.
It is far from enough to have what are called side-events under the same roof as the official negotiations, as was the case at the Bella Center. The popular understanding of the climate crisis must be lifted to a much higher level, and this can only be done with total transparency.
Klimaforum09 has shown a path that needs to be followed!