Friday 15th November 2019
Friday, 15th of November 2019
Home / Climate Change / COP25: Feminists flay social injustice amid climate chaos

COP25: Feminists flay social injustice amid climate chaos

Against the backdrop of Chile’s withdrawal from hosting COP25, the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) and the Women and Gender Constituency of the UNFCCC in a feminist response to the cancellation, state that regardless of where the COP25 will be held, the world will not take its eyes off Chile, or what the people are demanding

Women2030 coalition
Feminists: Members of the Women2030 coalition in a group photograph. Photo credit: John Baaki

On October 30, 2019, the Government of Chile announced that it would not host the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Summit “COP25” in the country, in view of the social revolution that is underway.

Political Context

On October 19th, the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, in agreement with the National Security Council, declared a state of emergency – the first one since Pinochet’s dictatorship – in response to protests against the rising cost of transportation prices in Santiago – a breaking point on top of 30 years of neoliberal policies that affect every aspect of Chilean people’s lives. Chile has the highest level of income inequality amongst the richest countries in the world, and women often bear the brunt of this inequality as they experience massive pay gaps and markedly low levels of employment.

This imposed state of emergency resulted in the severe restriction of peoples’ rights to assembly and freedom of movement. The violence used by police/military forces (“carabineros”) for controlling demonstrations has been excessive. It has been reported that over 3000 arrests have been made throughout the country, that over 1000 people have been injured and at least 18 people have died from the violence. The Instituto de Derechos Humanos (INDH) has confirmed that it was compiling 55 legal cases related to five homicides and eight instances of sexual violence involving both police and military agents, which will be investigated by Chile’s public prosecution service.

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Other sources suggest wide-spread police violence against women including imposed strip searches, rape threats, and groping with hands and weapons by officers. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, has called for an investigation of allegations of human rights violations and is expected to visit Santiago.

COP25 Suspension

The decision of the Chilean President to forego hosting the APEC and COP25 international summits is not reflective of the demands of national social movements seeking reform. While the state of emergency was lifted on Sunday, October 27, we are deeply alarmed with the tone in the announcement of the President, seeming to place blame for the cancellations on social movements, rather than on the unjust elitist systems that have created vast inequality in the country. We are concerned with the continuous violation and failure of protection of human rights of the people of Chile.

In addition, this decision puts urgent needed climate action at risk just shortly before the Paris Agreement enters its implementation in 2020. We urgently remind leaders around the world that urgent action on climate change and the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement cannot be postponed.

To this end:

  • We call on the Government to ensure the protection of human rights and environmental rights defenders, as well as the release of political prisoners, as the country moves forward in dialogues on responding to the demands of local people;
  • We call on the Chilean government, and all parties to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, to adopt reforms that put an end to industrial capitalism in its late neoliberal phase, which is the cause of both climate change emergency and inequality;
  • We call on Governments to ratify and sign the Escazu Agreement, obliging states to protect the people and groups that defend the environment;
  • We call on the global community to recognise and support grassroots groups, organisations, delegations and others still going to Chile to attend and galvanise the “Cumbre de los Pueblos” (People’s Climate Summit);
  • And finally, we call on Chile and all countries to not use the postponement of a COP to postpone climate action – we urgently need and demand:
  1. Ending fossil fuel extraction and investments in fossil fuel infrastructure;
  2. Ending fossil fuel subsidies without imposing unjust austerity measures onto the people. Fossil fuel companies and governments should incur these costs, and resources should instead be urgently redirected toward the promotion of gender equality, education, social protection and a peaceful and healthy environment;
  3. Boost the urgently needed integration of ocean issues into all respective bodies and mechanisms under UNFCCC;
  4. Deliver upscaled, ambitious, fast-tracked and gender-transformative finance delivered overwhelmingly as grants to ensure climate frontline communities and the poorest countries and people are able to better respond and adapt to the urgent and slow-onset realities of the climate crisis, as well as to address irrevocable loss and damage;
  5. Ensure a rights-based and people-centered global framework for action on climate change that works towards a just transition for all.
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Social Justice & Climate Chaos

Throughout this, the people of Chile have continuously and courageously taken to the streets, the vast majority in peaceful demonstrations, to demand Constitutional reform, the resignation of President Sebastian Piñera, to challenge the use of military force, and to demand an end to systems that currently privileges an elite few off the backs of the Chilean people.

As feminists from around the world, we have watched as people’s movements are mobilised in the “birthplace of Neo-liberalism” to challenge the very conditions which we know are fundamental drivers of the climate crisis – a white-supremacist hetero-patriarchal system that prioritises profit over people and elites over majority, that privatises critical public goods, and that upholds a model of resource extraction, environmental exploitation and militarisation.

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Women and feminists have been on the frontlines of the protests in Chile, as they are on the frontlines of the climate justice movement. Organizing local assemblies that have focused on care work including childcare, support for the elderly and providing food have been central feminist aspects of the movement.

The social revolution in Chile mirrors the demands and mobilizations of social, economic and ecological justice and feminist movements around the world – reverberating loudly in their demands for basic human rights, for bodily autonomy, for access to water, food, education and universal healthcare, to dignified and decent work, and to a peaceful, healthy, safe, and sustainable environment. The pillars of ‘market-driven development’ are being torn down as the reality of growing global social inequality and injustice, and a relentlessly progressing climate emergency are at our doorsteps.

For decades, women’s rights and feminist movements have brought forward an analysis to shift to a more peaceful and just world, demanding a revolution that would deliver people from our interlocking systems of capitalism, resource extraction, labor exploitation, racism, colonization, the commodification of nature, imperialism, hegemony and militarism. We remain steadfast in this work and stand in full solidarity with the feminists, women, the youth and students, Indigenous people, LGBTQI++ persons, human rights advocates and environmental rights defenders in Chile!

Regardless of where the COP25 will be held, the world will not take its eyes off Chile, or what the people are demanding. These demands echo around the world. Neoliberalism has led us to this climate emergency, and people around the world are uniting and rising up against this urgent crisis.

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