After Copenhagen: “The half of nothing is nothing”

We received a powerful message from Ulrike Roehr, a member of the Gender CC network of women for climate justice, and we wanted to share it with you.  It provides a stark reminder of what is at stake in the climate change crisis and where world leaders are failing to identify solutions.  (Emphasis added to the message below).

After weeks of negotiations, the outcome of COP15 is extremely
disappointing. There are no firm and worthwhile commitments, only the
acknowledgement of a declaration, which states that global temperature
rise should not exceed 2°. Yet the atmosphere does not act under
orders. It's us humans who ought to act, but the declaration remains
silent on commitments.

During the last days of the negotiations gender language was also
watered down in the various draft texts. In particular, it is absent in
mitigation and financing. However, if the gender language would have
been stronger, it wouldn't have been a reason to celebrate, though,
because it can only be as good as the overall outcomes of the meeting.
Additionally, it was alarming that for the first time in the history of
the UNFCCC, civil society has been effectively excluded from its
participation in the second week of the negotiations.

"During the last two days of the conference, we have heard many
elaborate speeches, but it is action that is urgently needed. Not a
political declaration, but commitments. Not "continued high growth" but
fundamental changes of how we live and consume in industrialized
countries and how we share the earth's resources nationally and
globally. Not lukewarm reduction goals but deep emission cuts. Not the
same grant and loan conditionalities but significant public funding
that can really bail us out from this climate crisis. We believe that
the climate crisis is a mere symptom of a larger and long standing
human crisis. There are no instant solutions. We need to engage by
immediately starting a collective learning process that is geared
towards genuine and lasting solutions."
(Ulrike Röhr, Intervention in
the plenary of the High Level Segment, on behalf of Women and Gender,
see below).

The hope we had before Copenhagen is lost in despair. Copenhagen did not sent a signal for a climate and gender just future.

Ulrike Roehr

Visit the Gender CC website to watch a video of Ulrike speaking on women and gender at the Copenhagen climate conference.

Afghanistan Update: MADRE Members Come Through for Naseema

From the MADRE website comes this update on the progress we've made in providing support for Naseema.  To read our first blog entry on her situation, click here.

Thanks to the support we were able to raise through the Afghan Women's Survival Fund,
Naseema and her three children are—right now—making their final
preparations to escape Afghanistan. Naseema is frightened, but
incredibly relieved to finally have the means to escape her murderous

During these dangerous days, while Naseema’s husband
is hunting for her, she and her children are being sheltered by our
partners in Kabul. MADRE has been able to cover the costs of temporary
emergency housing, transportation and passport fees for Naseema and the

Now we're working with our partners and two different
United Nations agencies to get Naseema and her family resettled in
Tajikistan. From there, they will apply for refugee status so they can
be placed in another country.

But right now, the most important
thing is for them to escape Afghanistan and the death threats of
Naseema's husband. Thanks the support of MADRE members, that's

Read Naseema's story.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the Afghan Women's Survival Fund—you gave Naseema the support she needs to save her life and protect her children.

Listen In: An Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Activist Speaks Out from Copenhagen

A few days ago, we had the chance to speak with Edna Kaptoyo, a program officer with the Indigenous Information Network-Kenya, about her participation at the climate change conference in Copenhagen.  Below is a short excerpt of what she had to say about Indigenous organizing on climate change.  We have also provided a transcript below, including links to more information.


I’m Edna Kaptoyo. I work with the Indigenous Information Network-Kenya, and I am the program officer. I am in charge of climate change and forests.

From the start, it wasn’t really receptive of Indigenous Peoples because we weren’t given a chance to give an opening statement at the plenary, as we were accorded that status at other meetings. So, we had to settle for other times in the other plenaries where we were given a few minutes to give in our deliberations.

In terms of participation I would still say that there was less space.  Despite the fact that we were there in great numbers and really had a lot of input to give to the Conference of Parties.  And we did actually have to use Indigenous people who came as party delegations to try and push our issues. 

In other meetings we were allowed to participate in the informal working groups and go out when it was time for them to make a decision, but this time we couldn’t even get in.  Even the plenary access was really restricted, and we couldn’t get to the plenary because we had to have sometimes a special badge for the opening plenary.  They had given less badges which could not even cover half of the Indigenous Peoples who were there.

The message we tried to bring was built up from the Anchorage meeting we had—the Global
Indigenous Peoples Summit on Climate Change
, held in Alaska in April—where we came up with a
declaration.  And then to Bangkok where we developed
policy statement
. Basically, we are talking about the principles that
should be observed by Parties, and the first one was the rights of Indigenous
Peoples as stipulated in the United Nations
Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
. Secondly, the free, prior and
informed consent of Indigenous Peoples
and their full and effective participation
in the process at national, regional and international level. And thirdly,
respect for the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, as a science that
can be used to combat and cope with climate change.  So, those were the three messages in the policy

Indigenous people, we had a series of protests—peaceful
protests—and one of them was on the REDD
program, the reducing emissions from degradation and deforestation
.  And we actually made a human chain, and we
did it in the Bella Center where the venue
was. We went around and said we were calling for “no rights, no REDD.”  So, if you don’t give us, if you don’t have
our language in REDD on rights, we are not going to support the REDD program.
And actually we had a lot of support and the text that came in this week—the
negotiating text—they actually removed the brackets on the language that was on
the respect of Indigenous Peoples rights.

My impression is for the first time at least, first looking at the global aspect is we, Indigenous people, for the first time came out in great numbers, worked together, and we were from all over the world and really worked together to really push on our suggestions, our text proposals at the climate change meeting. Secondly also I think, for the first time, I think we are making at least a first step.  It is really where the Indigenous Peoples are trying to organize themselves. Because the Forum was not really that strong but now it is getting stronger and really try to get structures around it.

Thirdly, it was also a challenge, we had these communications in terms of giving information back and the feedback mechanism and its good because we had Indigenous People from the local level participating and because they are getting the impact there they are very willing to bring information back to their communities.

I think we made a major step in trying to create and to look at what the position of the government is and where they could support us.  And I think when I get back I also have to tell them what happened and what were the setbacks and what were the achievements and then you have to strategize again how to continue participating.  Because this Conference of Parties, this is not the end of the meetings and not the end of, in terms of getting the rights of people into the text and also in the climate change convention itself.

Quick Post from Copenhagen

Below is a quick message we received a few days ago from Fatima Ahmed, the head of our partner organization in Sudan, Zenab for Women in Development.  She has been in Copenhagen, working to uplift the message that women farmers must be an integral part of our global response to climate change.

2007-Fatima and sonI continue my participation here in Copenhagen. I did distribute all the documents
and the statements to many government delegates, including US delegates. I attend
the Gender Caucus each morning, where I did talk about our effort with MADRE.  I also attended couple of sessions on agriculture,
to be at the center of the negotiations.  At the Farmers caucus, I raised the issue of why there are no women
farmers representatives, in regards to the outcome document still not released.

Regarding the organization of the conference, it’s good but with
too many people, very tense and crowded even though the center is very big. I
will give you another update next week, my regards to all of you.


A Postcard from Copenhagen

Postcard-copenhagen Last weekend, women farmers from Africa and Latin America gave President Obama a message that he can't afford to ignore. In a letter delivered to the president and U.S. negotiators in Copenhagen,
the women argued that the poorest, most disenfranchised people in the
world hold the key to resolving the biggest global challenge of our

For those of us accustomed to thinking of climate change as a purely
scientific or economic matter, it may seem strange to consider that
someone like Amal Mahmoud has a crucial role to play in stabilizing the
climate. Amal never went to school. Like many young women in rural
Sudan, she married at the age of 15 and now ekes out a living on a
small plot of land that she does not own. Thanks to her grueling hours
of farm work, Amal's family is poor, but not starving.

So what does Amal's humble life have to do with fixing the climate?

Click here to read the rest at Foreign Policy in Focus.

When Will the US Ratify the Women’s Rights Convention?

Today is the 30th anniversary of the only international human rights treaty exclusively devoted to gender equality. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 18,1979. CEDAW offers a universal definition of discrimination against women and an agenda for governments to end that discrimination in both the public and private spheres.

There are a lot of good things about CEDAW, so I’ll just mention two of my favorites. One is that the treaty calls on governments to hold periodic reviews of policies that impact women’s rights. These reviews give community-based women’s organizations a real opportunity to be heard and to demand accountability from government. Another is that CEDAW is crystal clear that people can’t use culture or religion as an excuse to violate women’s rights.

Around the world, women have used CEDAW to advance their rights to reproductive and sexual health, inheritance and property, political participation, freedom from violence and more. UNIFEM has a nice round-up of CEDAW success stories from these countries:

:: Bangladesh
:: Cameroon
:: Colombia
:: Egypt and
:: Hungary :: India :: Jamaica
:: Kenya :: Kyrgyzstan
:: Kyrgyzstan
& Tajikistan
Mexico ::
:: The
:: Sierra
:: Solomon
:: Thailand

But guess who hasn’t ratified?

The United States is one of only a small handful of countries—and the only democracy in the world—that has not ratified CEDAW. You won’t be shocked to learn who the obstructionists are: 1. the Christian Right, which fears CEDAW-induced 'horrors' such as abortion on demand and legalization of same-sex marriage; and 2. the equally ideological corporate sector, which worries that CEDAW would mandate paid maternity leave and other policies that could interfere with profits. Marjorie Cohn explains how religious fundamentalists and market fundamentalists have joined forces to block ratification of CEDAW in the US.

Opponents of the treaty have tried to ensure that if it is ever ratified, the approved version will be so watered down as to actually endanger rights that women already have. Here’s what they did: In 1994 and then again in 2002, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee created a set of conditions called RUDs — Reservations, Understandings, and Declarations — to weaken CEDAW. The 11 RUDs undo the treaty’s call for paid maternity leave and access to reproductive health care, including, of course, contraception and abortion.

The abortion RUD reads: "Nothing in this convention shall be construed to reflect or create any right to abortion and in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning." Since nearly all abortions in the US are legally defined as a method of family planning, this provision would turn CEDAW into a weapon in the hands of anti-choice activists.

Janet Benshoof, director of the Global Justice Center, explains how the RUDs effectively transform CEDAW from a women’s equality treaty into a dangerous legal precedent for women all over the world:

“Although the RUDs seemingly apply solely to American women, they eviscerate the core of CEDAW, the definition of equality and provide legal authority to those who want to undermine women's rights….[T]his gutted CEDAW poses even more danger than continued U.S. isolation. The Senate should advise and consent to the ratification of a clean CEDAW unencumbered by reservations. They should not ratify a CEDAW that limits the full scope of women's equality rights.”

We couldn’t agree more. As we gear up for the many challenges of 2010, pushing the US Senate to ratify a clean CEDAW or no CEDAW will be high on our list.

A Thank You…

It is my final week here at MADRE, and I
wanted to say thank you to everyone and to extend my appreciation for giving me the opportunity to be a part of MADRE.

As a Communications Intern, I was able to
experience hands-on how a successful nonprofit organization works and
communicates to its membersIt has been such an
enlightening experience to be a part of a small organization and to work
with people who are so dedicated and make such a huge impact on a
global issue.

MADRE opened my eyes to the realities of
women’s human rights around the world.  When I first started at MADRE, I knew women’s human rights was a big issue. Today, I leave here knowing that there are people
fighting to help raise the voices of women around the world and proud that I was a part of this fight, even for a moment.

It has been a humbling experience, and I hope that one day I get to experience it again.

To Fight Global Warming and Prevent Hunger, We Need to Change How We Grow Our Food

We tend to think of cars as the main culprits in climate change. But industrial agriculture, with its fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides, monoculture plantations, fuel-guzzling global transport system, and clear-cutting of carbon-absorbing forests is the source of as much as half of the world's carbon emissions.

Moreover, the way we grow our food is now threatening our ability to
produce enough food to feed the world. Unless we control global climate
change, caused in part by industrial farming, agricultural output
across the world is likely to plummet.

In Latin America, climate change may bring a 25 percent drop in crop yields within two generations; in Sudan that number is a frightening 50 percent.

If you've been looking for an accessible explanation of how industrial agriculture, climate change and women's rights are linked, look no further. Read more of Yifat's article, posted yesterday on AlterNet, here.

Who Took Away Bolivia’s Water?

Yesterday, one of the front page stories of the New York Times described the terrible and worsening situation of people in Bolivia’s whose water supplies are disappearing.  As a land-locked country, Bolivia has relied on glaciers to provide water – and those glaciers are melting at a rate faster than anyone had predicted.  The article explains:

“The effects are appearing much more rapidly than we can respond to them, and a reservoir takes five to seven years to build. I’m not sure we have that long,” said Edson Ramírez, a Bolivian glaciologist who has documented and projected the glaciers’ retreat for two decades.

The retreat has outpaced his wildest predictions. He had predicted that one glacier, Chacaltaya, would last until 2020. It disappeared this year. In 2006, he said El Alto water demand would outstrip supply by 2009. It happened.

While acknowledging that climate change is at the root of these dramatic changes, the article also places the blame on “checkered management” by the Bolivian government, saying:

Urban water supplies are also taxed by population growth as well as checkered management, in part because there is little money to manage anything, but also because the government nationalized the water company a few years ago, having declared water a human right. El Alto still does not employ a full-time water technician.

This logic suggests that the declaration of water as a human right, and the move away from privatized water supplies, has resulted in diminished access to water.  The opposite has been true.  Compared to the fuller history of Bolivian people’s fight to access water, we can see why.  

In the 1990s, the World Bank and other international financial institutions pushed privatization of public services—including water provision—as a condition for countries to receive aid.  In Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia, the process of privatization meant that corporations like the US-based Bechtel Corporation gained control over the city’s water.  As the cost of water doubled or more for many, in 2000 people across the city turned to the streets in protest, asserting that “The water is ours.”

The principle that water is a human right motivated people to demand access and to refuse to let their lives be threatened by the rush towards privatization.  The citizens of Cochabamba were able to push Bechtel out of their city and reclaim their right to water.  But now, largely through the carbon-emitting activities of industrialized countries including many of those same corporations, the water supplies of Bolivia are again compromised.

For more on why water rights are women’s rights, click here.

Update: This video, via GRITtv, has more.