Social forces are on the move toward Cancun

The 16th U.N. convening on climate change in Cancun this week–also known as COP16–comes a year after a dismally disappointing Copenhagen meeting hijacked by the United States, with President Obama showing up on the last day to save face with an undemocratic “accord” crafted by himself and just a few other countries– Brazil, South Africa, India, and China.


In the wake of that convening, a historic gathering of world leaders and social movements came together in Cochabamba, Bolivia to craft an accord anchored in human rights and the protection of Mother Earth. Which brings us to Cancun, where the seemingly endless negotiations on how to piecemeal a solution to the climate crisis continue.

For the majority of the world, there are two important issues emerging at the COP16.

One, where is the incorporation of the principles of the historic Cochabamba Accord in the discussion document?

Two, will world leaders endorse REDDs, a destructive market-based offsets scheme that masquerades as a conservation mechanism but in fact deprives indigenous and land-based people of their rights?

As COP16 gets underway, leaders are streaming into Cancun from all directions. Some are coming on jets from national capitals. And some are traveling by car, truck, and bus, through Mexico, picking up their people as they go.

La Via Campesina, an international small farmers movement based in Mexico, is facilitating the participation of thousands of Mexicans in the events. Joining them are social movement forces from Canada and the U.S., in caravans converging on Cancun.

Grassroots International’s Sara Mersha writes in about the value of the caravans for movement building:

Today, we’ll be gathering at the World Forum against Environmental Destruction at the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union, where our own Tom Goldtooth (IEN Director) will be speaking, along with many other important movement leaders from the Global South. From there, we’ll kick off the first mobilization towards Cancun – an International March “For Life and Social and Environmental Justice,” right here in Mexico City. Tomorrow morning, the caravans will be on the road again, and will arrive in Cancun on December 3rd.

Through the caravans, we have a chance to see firsthand how different communities across Mexico are affected by ecological injustices, and how they are fighting back.

Through our participation in the alternative fora, we have a chance to educate each other about the connections between our struggles. Through joint mobilizations, we have a chance to demonstrate our collective strength. And through all of these collaborations, we are building connections between people’s of the Global North and South, between indigenous and campesino communities, between urban and rural social movements. Cancun may have been the original reason for us to connect, but just imagine the longer-term power these movements could build together.

But not all the action is in Mexico. Folks “back home” are marking the occasion, answering La Via Campesina’s call for “1000 Cancuns” worldwide. Direct actions, service projects, and educational events are planned for the duration of the COP16, with a specific day of action on December 7th.

Grassroots Solutions for Climate Justice—North America will post dispatches from the ground here, as well as the blogging from our friends in Cancun and beyond. Check back often.