Thursday, 17 December 2009

NGO fury after Copenhagen ban

Yesterday’s decision by the UN to ban a large number of NGO delegates from the main venue of the Copenhagen climate change summit was, to say the least, unpopular on the ground.

Delegates from the green group Friends of the Earth arrived at the Bella Centre Wednesday morning to find their badges were no longer valid. This news apparently spread like wildfire both within the Bella Centre and among the protestors on the streets, stoking a feeling of resentment among the marchers. One delegate described to me his heartbreak as he saw a girl crying on the train, saying she had waited for years to attend the summit and was now being made to feel like an intruder.

The UN insists the move was necessary after it received word that FoE members were going to facilitate a security breach and let protesters into the centre. But yesterday’s move seems to be part of a wider strategy to block access to NGOs in the final day of the conference. This may be necessary as more heads of state and VIPs need to get into the centre.

According to reports NGOs have now been ordered to give up 35% of their access passes. Today the number observers allowed in was limited to a list of 300 names. Apparently the NGOs weren’t told before thge summit that thsi siphoning off of access would happen in the final days.
Restrictions on the press increased today as well, with the main areas suddenly becoming restricted and journalsits shuttled to press conferences in groups. Today 50 NGOs have written an open letter to Yvo de Boer and new COP15 president Lars Løkke Rasmussen calling on the restrictions to be lifted.

The restrictions appear to be a UN decision rather than a Danish one. This morning the Danish ministry of foreign affairs issued a press release saying they are organising an alternative conference venue called Forum Copenhagen today and tomorrow for the NGO representatives who have been barred from Bella Centre. It will be available to anyone with a UNFCCC badge, even if the pass is no longer valid for the main venue. The facility will include TV links to the Bella Centre and wifi. They also point out that the NGO reps can attend the parallel conference, the People’s Climate Summit, organised by activists.

However this will be cold comfort to the NGO reps who appear to have been under the impression they would have full access throughout the entire event. Whatever the outcome of the next two days’ talks, NGOs will be sure to cite these restrictions as evidence that they were shut out of the process. The UN will face a delicate balance between maintaining security for world leaders and making NGOs feel included.

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