Global Exchange is Headed to Durban, South Africa for COP17!

This December, the 2011 UN Climate Talks will be held in Durban, South Africa. As we approach this year’s conference, environmental and climate justice activists around the world have reason to doubt that our world leaders will come together in Durban and reach a solid agreement on a solution to climate change. Past conferences have demonstrated a predictable failure among international governments to reach an agreement adequate enough to save the planet. Mainly, because the UN Climate Change framework is based not on the root causes of environmental exploitation – but ‘market fixes’ within the corporate-led economic model and a system based on continuous exploitation of the earth’s resources.

This is the way it has been, but this is not the way it has to be.

There’s good news – people across the world are rallying for a new approach to protect our environment and curb the effects of climate change – establish and enforce laws which actually elevate the rights of nature (and communities) above the claimed ‘rights’ of corporations whose sole interests are development for profits.

Global Exchange, Durban community activist Desmond D’Sa, and The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), in collaboration with our international partners and civil society groups gathering in Durban are working to present an alternative paradigm emerging from communities at the grassroots – recognizing the rights of ecosystems and communities. This rights-based approach offers a different way to protect nature, enabling communities (rather than corporations) to act as stewards of local ecosystems and asserting people’s rights over corporations. The Rights of Nature framework comes from a new understanding of our human relationship with nature, from viewing nature solely as property for humans to exploit for profit to the belief that ecosystems possess the right to exist, thrive, and evolve, and that our laws must put our planet before profits.

Community Rights Program Director, Shannon Biggs, will be on the ground in Durban this December both inside and outside the COP17 conference, joining citizens and activists there who are leading the call for nature’s rights.

Why is the location of COP17 in Durban particularly important?

Durban is the dirtiest city in all of South Africa. Some days the air is clouded with enough pollution to block out the sun. In Durban, more than 300 toxic, water-polluting and extraction-based industrial plants (including an oil refinery with frequent explosions) discharge toxic pollutants into the air, water and land, damaging the health of residents, particularly those oppressed by apartheid, as well as uncountable plants and animals; directly contributing to global climate change.

With the world’s attention on Durban thanks to the COP17 climate summit, citizens and environmental activists have a unique opportunity to demand rights both for South Africans and the ecosystems on which their communities depend to thrive.

There are a number of actions and demonstrations already planned to carry the call for community and nature’s rights in Durban for the world to hear. Please stay posted for an upcoming piece on the events surrounding COP17 in Durban, including live updates from Shannon around the organizing on the ground. For info on how to get involved, please contact Shannon Biggs: (

Week of Action in Durban: Rights of Nature events

Dec 1st

– Global Alliance for Rights of Nature strategy session.  Members of the Global Alliance will gather in Durban to set priorities for 2012.

Dec 2nd

– HRA winner and lead UN negotiator for Bolivia Pablo Solon will be presenting to the public at the Wolpe Lecture on ‘The Rights of Nature and Climate Politics’

  • When: 5pm-7pm
  • Where: Shepstone 1, Howard College, UKZN

Dec 3rd

· Global Day of Action: C17 March

  • When: 9am gather – march starts at 10:30am
  • Where: Curries Fountain in the People’s Space

Dec 5th

· Rights of Nature Panel Discussion featuring Pablo Solon, Cormac Cullinan, Natalia Green, Shannon Biggs, and Tom Goldtooth.

  • When: 2:00-3:30pm
  • Where: The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College at the T B DAVIS  BUILDING L4.

· Rights of Nature Teach-In

  • When: 3:30-5:00pm
  • Where: The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College at the T B DAVIS  BUILDING L4.

Dec 6th

· Press Conference. Time & Location TBA.

–      Toxic Tour and Refinery Action and Rights of Nature march and action in South Durban. Speakers include GX’s Shannon Biggs (USA), Randy Hayes (USA), Pablo Solon (Bolivia), Cormac Cullinan (SA) Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous leader, Turtle Island), Natalia Green (Ecuador) Time & Location TBA.

Dec 7th

Rio+20 strategy session with all international allies. Time & Location TBA.

Dec 9th

· Rights of Nature: An Idea Whose Time Has Come – inside the COP17 conference

  • When: noon-1pm
  • Where: Blyde River Room