Double the numbers expected - Summit struggling to cope with demand for change. Noel Douglas reports from the second day of the World People's Summit in Bolivia.
In yesterdays inauguration rally Evo Morales called for communitarian socialism to replace the failing and destructive Capitalist system. Today we found out that despite thousands of activists from Northern Europe and elsewhere not being able to attend the summit because of the Volcano eruption in Iceland, a huge 31,000 people from more than 135 countries have began the enormous task of making such a vision possible.
Even the optimistic predictions for the summit thought attendance would be around 15,000 which shows a sign of how the social movements are picking up momentum again after a lull at the end of the 00's. The extra numbers have caused logistical problems and meetings have had to be shifted to accomodate confusing some, but generally the organisation has been very good, considering the few months this has been organised in. Let's face it, real democracy can be messy, but we can't do any worse than those who currently (mis)rule the world, can we? Plans are already afoot for a second World People's summit next year after Cop16 in Mexico.
So is this a new climate movement as some suggest? I think not, it feels more like a second wave of the global anti-capitalist movement but with the focus now on climate justice rather than global justice. This is reflected in the make up of the activists involved - many of whom go back to WTO protests in Seattle or the IMF/World Bank protests in Prague a decade ago. "System change not Climate Change" flows through the conference and the sentiments from Morales expressed yesterday at the rally.
In discussions I've heard many of the activists talk of the need to link the triple global crisis of economics, Imperialism and climate change and not see them as isolated from each other. In fact the summit is very much like a mini-World Social Forum. This afternoon I walked from a meeting on Climate Debt, passed a trio of Bolvian Rap artists verbally hammering Capitalism and Imperialism in rhyme, spoke to activists from Denmark, the US, Germany, Australia, Bolivia, Mexico and Brazil (see the Voices from the Summit) then watched a joyous ceremonial dance by Bolivian Miners…'another world' it certainly is to the grey politics of the UK!
In yesterdays report I mentioned the slightly odd (for an anti-capitalist) presence of the Police and Army at the summit. Talking to Bolivian activists today they said this was because since Morales became leader he has launched many social programmes that get the Police or the Army to help with social issues or protect the environment, meaning the forces have to engage and work with the people. The logic of this is to narrow the separation between these forces and the people so that it makes it harder for them to turn on the people as they have in other crisis situations in South America such as the Pinochet coup in Chile in 1973. Whether this strategy will work should the political situation become more hot, we'll have to see, but it's certainly and interesting development.
The working groups concluded today and I will report tomorrow on the conclusions that have been drawn. I know from walking round and talking to participants that the experience has been trying and difficult in some, but this summit is just a start. In the long term this really is about how we build an alliance for a global mobilsation against Climate Change.
Speaking in the daily bulletin handed out at the gate Juan Pablo Ramos, Bolivia's Environment Minister says "The issue of Climate Change has broken down any language and cultural differences, allowing us to build a shared vision. I think this happens because we all feel affected by Climate Change and if we don't solve it together we will suffer worse effects than we are currently experiencing. In the conference we are a Tower of Babel in terms of nationalities, yet one which paradoxically shares a common language in our understanding of the structural causes of climate change."
From Globalise Resistance