The conference took place in Tiquipaya, Cochabamba, Bolivia from 19th to the 22nd April. After registering and gaining participant passes at Tiquipaya Municipal Coliseum, we headed to the University where the working groups were set up amongst various stalls advertising sustainable products and also giving out leaflets and information about the conference and organisations in relation to it.
Our immediate first impressions were that of an organised and exciting atmosphere where people had gathered together from all over the world to join hands and talk about climate change, and the ways that we can deal with it together. On the first day representatives from countries around the world were introduced at the inauguration of the conference in a morning of traditional music and dance. Flags were waved and banners were held up to commemorate the start of the conference: hopes were high with the anticipation of the conference. One had the feeling that everyone was very proud of Evo Morales for calling together this conference as an answer to the failures of Copenhagen.
The working groups were a fantastic idea to enable participants to engage in various debates and issues ranging from climate migrants to technology transfer to agriculture and food sovereignty. It was incredibly interesting and moving to hear from people directly affected by climate change, who are suffering from it and don’t need to see any scientific evidence because their livelihoods are so entwined with the earth they know when it is being harmed through ill treatment. Everyone was so passionate about the issue and really seemed to relish this opportunity to have their voices heard.
A particularly interesting talk was held by ‘NoBorders’ whereby we spoke of climate migrants and the problems being faced by countries such as Bangladesh where the number of climate refugees is rising rapidly due to rising sea levels. Another discussion we participated in included environmental law and the downside to private land use: without regulations, land is not always used sustainably and therefore climate change is much harder to control. There was so much information and so many great speakers, including Naomi Klein. The whole conference was fantastically organised and one almost forgot it was being held in the poorest country in South America. It was a real testament to what can be achieved when people believe so strongly in a common cause.
Bringing many people together from all over the world re-affirmed a people’s conference: a shared vision from our ancestors, from traditional knowledge, from practises of our indigenous peoples, and from science directed at the stability and well being of the earth. We believe that this coming together and the representation of different ideas, attitudes and practises brought a great sense of common purpose and the feeling of a worldwide community working alongside one another, towards the common goal of building a people’s world movement for Mother Earth, or ‘Pachamama‘ as it is lovingly known in South America, to prevent the problems of climate change. Being part of this was incredibly special and we were very lucky to be a part of it! The attitudes the indigenous people displayed to life and the world we live in were completely different to anything we had experienced in the western world.
Near the end of the conference working groups presented their ideas and arguments in a working paper, where participants at the conference were able to comment on their work. This was a way to present the results of everyone’s hard work and show what they had achieved, with an ability to receive useful feedback. All of the working groups’ conclusions have been drawn up into papers, and recently the main conclusions of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth have been incorporated in the document of United Nations on Climate Change, which is a fantastic success for the conference. (More information can be found at this link http://pwccc.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/the-proposals-of-%e2%80%9cpeoples-agreement%e2%80%9d-in-the-texts-for/#more-2380)
The closing ceremony was all that we expected and more! It was held at the Felix Capriles Stadium of Cochabamba, and was seen as a cultural act on behalf of life and the earth. There were indigenous cultural expressions of music and dance from various regions of Bolivia, lots of traditional dress and the worldwide representatives on stage as well as Evo Morales. The atmosphere was ecstatic as the sun set above the stadium and the bright lights came on. One couldn’t help but hope that after such a fantastic week Western governments might actually start to sit up and take notice of this fantastic achievement in Bolivia and also take an opportunity to listen to the voices of the people.
Capriles Stadium, Cochabamba. Conference at Tiquipaya University.