Limited Access and Crack Downs on Civil Society

Civil Society members and guests of GJEP punished for chanting in UN Conference Center

By: Shannon Gibson


Ph.D. Candidate

University of Miami

The Secretariat issued a new Information Note to Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations today which details the access restrictions for IGO and NGOs as the High Level Segment commences this afternoon.  Reports from our own members (the Climate Justice Now! constituency within the Environmental NGO’s delegation, indicate that we’ll have a whopping 2 passes for plenary access (mind you there are hundreds accredited under our network).  As I type this now, I myself am sitting in a plenary hall watching the Opening Ceremony of the High Level Segment via a live feed over closed circuit televisions.  Additionally, the Note ominously states, “Participants are however reminded of the building fire regulations, and that it is the responsibility of the secretariat to ensure implementation of policies for the safety and security of the participants on the UN conference premises.”  Last I checked, not that many high-level ministers were coming this week….maybe a few dozen.  How an extra few dozen high-level ministers (even with their entourages) justifies the exclusion of hundreds/thousands of civil society members sure beats me.  But then again, they used that same logic on us last year in Copenhagen…..

In terms of action crack downs, following a GJEP-hosted press conference inside the Moon Palace, United Nations security confiscated badges and forced activists engaging in an ‘non-sanctioned’ verbal chant into buses which transported them back to the Cancunmesse (the convention location where most NGO side events and meeting spaces are located…notably a 15 minute bus ride from the main plenary locations).  Below is an excerpt from an email sent by a member of Climate Justice Now! on what she witnessed (names removed to prevent future UN access restrictions):

Today following the CJN press conference in the Moon Palace, 3 of the activists…were very vocal and leading the chants, speaking to eager reporters who taped their speeches.  Then the UN security got a ‘deportation bus’ to usher them out of the Moon Palace, back to Cancunmesse and then out (presumably), after first confiscating their badges.

I was standing near the three of them, behind some reporter, and holding up the back of my badge which had the anti-REDD sticker on the back.  I reminded the speakers to announce their contact info to the media, so they could track them down later.  At that point a security officer asked to see my badge…I said he could see everything printed on it very well, without removing my badge.  He then snatched it from me by force.  I shouted to the media, who were still witnessing the ‘deportation’ of the 3 activists.  I told them my badge was taken without grounds, because I asked a simple question.  One journalist pressed him for an explanation, he said “I don’t have to explain, I am UN security”.  The journalist said of course you have to.  I guess eventually he decided it was bad PR, so after taking down my info, he returned my badge to me.   [A colleague] from GAIA saw when the guy snatched my badge, and came to ask him why he did it.  Immediately another security went after her!  He took down her info, but didn’t take away her badge.

Tomorrow, those of us whose names were taken may find ourselves blocked out.  But in front of one of the remaining secret service person, I told the reporters that I will let them know if I got excluded in later days because of today’s incidence.  Hope that deters them a bit.

For a photo essay of the inside protests by GJEP Director Orin Langelle, click here.

Shannon Gibson is working with Global Justice Ecology Project during COP16/CMP6 to provide daily negotiation updates and policy analysis.  She is a Ph.D. candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where she researches issues pertaining to global environmental politics and global civil society.

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  1. Thanks for another great post, very informative.
    The more we Know the more we Grow.
    Sincerely, The Groupon Guy