Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15th, 5:55 PM CET

Bella Center

Compared to the confusion, bustle, and stupefyingly dull line-by-line edits that defined yesterday at the Bella Center, today has seemed rather... calm.

Calm? But this COP 15! Proceedings should be fast-paced, controversial, difficult to follow, anything but... calm. But underlying that calm is a very unsettling feeling that things are moving very quickly, and yet not at all. Twice I flattened myself against a wall while the 30ish-person US delegation literally ran by. (I guess Todd Stern walks very fast.) And unlike previous days at the conference, I could not tell you why. NGOs and observers are increasingly limited not just in their access to the center, but also in the meetings and plenaries we are allowed to watch.

Earlier this week the quota system limited the number of members from each organization allowed into the center. White cards were issued with the understanding that capacity had been reached. But as the week progressed and heads of state finalized their plans, it was announced that on Thursday, only 1000 passes would be issued. On Friday, the final day of the conference, only 90. Out of an official capacity of 15,000.

Plenaries,or general meetings of the entire body or working groups, are almost always listed as "open" to NGOs. But today, supposedly "open" plenaries turned away NGOs. The message was, "By order of the Secretariat, no NGOs. No need to wait. No NGOs in the next meeting. Please move away," according to a Climate Action Network email.

The purpose of these plenaries is typically "stock-taking," regrouping subcommittees to review text, (attempt to) compromise, and decide how to proceed. But today for the first time, guards at the door turned away NGO members for these stock-taking meetings. As there is typically a long lag time to receive a copy of the working text, at which point it is hopelessly outdated, these meetings are the only way those not personally connected with the proceedings can keep track of developments. Needless to say, this was met with outrage among organizations blocked out.

Right now, I'm sitting in the main hall listening to the proceedings live on the website from my computer, while watching it (slightly out of sync) on a screen to the side of the room. To those not lucky enough to squeeze or talk their way into the plenary, it's the best way to keep up. Draft texts are not available to anyone but negotiating teams, meaning it's incredibly difficult to keep up with changes in the text. Rarely, it is projected as a word document in plenary rooms so the body can edit it together - hardly an efficient process.

So what does this meaning? It seems there is a tightening of access for NGOs and observers; even the press is feeling the squeeze. If the purpose is to allow the negotiations to run more efficiently, fine. But if there is the intention to block out those who keep the process open and transparent, there may be larger issues at hand.


1 comment:

  1. Making good policy is not for the faint of heart. :)G. Richard Mode, NWF