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COP26: UK presidency accused of failing women from Global South

Members and partners of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) are enraged by what looks like a deliberate exclusion of feminists and grassroots women at the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

WGC
WGC members staged a protest at the COP26 negotiation zone on November 4. Photo credit: UNFCCC

APWLD member and SERUNI Indonesia’s Triana Wardani is one of the very few women representing grassroots communities from the Global South who successfully arrived in Glasgow for the COP26. However, Triana noted that the discriminatory COVID-19 travel restrictions by the UK government made the process extremely difficult and alienating.

The UK government has initially imposed strict restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines accepted by its government, which ignored vaccine inequity and capitalism orchestrated by the rich countries. When the UK government decided to loosen its restrictions, it was already too late for many feminist organisations.

Triana added that despite being physically present, feminists, grassroots women, along with other civil society organisations, have remained excluded at the COP26. Hours of queue every day, extremely inadequate ticketing system among many more logistical complications made it almost impossible for women from the Global South to take part in the Conference.

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“This deliberate exclusion of feminists and grassroots women only reflects the continuing gross neglect of women’s voices amid the worsening climate crisis. The real situation experienced by women from frontline communities in the Global South due to climate change must be conveyed and heard by the world community to prevent false climate solutions and boost action to realise climate justice,” Triana explained.

For Yasso Kanti Bhattachan of the National Indigenous Women Forum of Nepal, the world leaders cannot make decisions without meaningful participation of the rural and indigenous women of the Global South who are at the forefront of the war against climate emergency.

“Our voices are missing. World leaders have just declared their commitment to halt deforestation and land degradation with £14 billion by 2030. The fund is not only too small for a span of nine years, but there is also no meaningful consultation with Indigenous Peoples prior to the declaration. In the declaration, we can hardly find commitment to tackle the drivers of the destruction of our land and forest in the name of tackling climate crises such as many massive hydropower projects in Nepal.” Yasso explained.

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Under the banner of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC), Triana, together with other feminists and activists present at the COP26 staged a protest to dedicate a space for the ‘missing voices’ of women of COP26.

During the protest, women lined up in the COP26 negotiation zone and one-by-one called the names of women who are missing at the conference – those who were not able to attend physically, and those who were persecuted and murdered for protecting the environment.

Climate Watch Thailand Executive Director and APWLD member, Wanun Permpibul, one of the names called during the WGC protest, noted that the exclusion of both grassroots women and peoples of the developing countries has robbed them of the opportunity to demand real actions and accountability for false climate solutions that have exacerbated the conditions of women in the Global South.

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“(There is a need) to break the strong and long rooted capitalism that is in favour of large-scale development, and the false solutions including net zero, natural-based solutions and geo-engineering that prioritise profits at the expense of natural resources and women’s livelihoods,” Wanun explained.

Wanun added that false climate solutions have not only misdirected the issue and further harmed biodiversity and ecosystems, but have also perpetuated oppression of women through militarisation, fundamentalisms and patriarchy, and have strengthened authoritarian governments.

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