COP17: The Great Escape III

The following post was written by 2011 Human Rights Awards Awardee, Pablo Solon. Solon was present in Durban, South Africa where the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP17) was being held. You can read updates from South Africa by Shannon Biggs, Director of Global Exchange’s Community Rights Program, who was also present in Durban. 

By Pablo Solon

After 9 days of negotiations there is no doubt that we saw this movie before. It is the third remake of Copenhagen and Cancun. Same actors. Same script. The documents are produced outside the formal negotiating scenario . In private meetings, dinners which the 193 member states do not attend. The result of these meetings is known only on the last day.

In the case of Copenhagen it was at two in the morning after the event should have already ended. In Cancun, the draft decision just appeared at 5 p.m. on the last day and was not opened for negotiation, not even to correct a comma. Bolivia stood firm on both occasions. The reason: the very low emission reduction commitments of industrialized countries that would lead to an increase in average global temperatures of more than 4° Celsius. In Cancun, Bolivia stood alone. I could not do otherwise. How could we accept the same document that was rejected in Copenhagen, knowing that 350,000 people die each year due to natural disasters caused by climate change? To remain silent is to be complicit in genocide and ecocide. To accept a disastrous document in order not to be left alone is cowardly diplomacy. Even more so when one trumpets the “people’s diplomacy” and has pledged to defend the “People’s Agreement” of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Bolivia last year.

Durban will be worse than Copenhagen and Cancun. Two days before the close of the meetings, the true text that is being negotiated is not yet known. Everyone knows that the actual 131-page document is just a compilation of proposals that were already on the table in Panama two months ago. The formal negotiations have barely advanced. The real document will appear toward the end of COP17.

But more importantly, the substance of the negotiations remains unchanged from Copenhagen. The emission reduction pledges by developed countries are still 13% to 17% based on 1990 levels. Everyone knows that this is a catastrophe. But instead of becoming outraged, they attempt to sweeten the poison. The wrapper of this package will be the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and a mandate for a new binding agreement. The substance of the package will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: do virtually nothing during this decade in terms of reducing emissions, and get a mandate to negotiate an agreement that will be even weaker than the Kyoto Protocol and that will replace it in 2020. “The Great Escape III” is the name of this movie, and it tells the story of how the governments of rich countries along with transnational corporations are looking to escape their responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Instead of becoming stronger, the fight against climate change is becoming more soft and flexible, with voluntary commitments to reduce emissions. The question is, who will step up this time to denounce the fraud to the end? Or could it be that this time, everyone will accept the remake of Copenhagen and Cancun?

The truth is that beyond the setting and the last scene, the end of this film will be the same as in Copenhagen and Cancun: humanity and mother earth will be the victims of a rise in temperature not seen in 800,000 years.

Pablo Solon is an international analyst and social activist. He was chief negotiator for climate change and United Nations Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (2009-June 2011).

Ben Cohen, Tex Dworkin, Kevin Danaher, Jerry Greenfield Photo Credit: Natalie Mottley

The Ninth Annual Human Rights Awards was a great success!  The sold out event included inspirational speeches by three incredible honorees, witty banter by event emcees Ben & Jerry (in tuxedos!), and the participation of the entire Global Exchange staff, board, and community.

Since 2001, the Human Rights Awards Gala has brought together activists, supporters, and friends to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations working for human rights from around the country and around the world.

Guests in attendance this year included folks from Ben & Jerry’s, CODE PINK, Dr. Bronner’s, Drug Policy Alliance, Fair Trade USA, Harrington Investments, Sungevity, The Pachamama Alliance, Thanksgiving Coffee, and a whole lot more!

Fair Trade models Jocelyn Boreta, Rae Abileah, Zarah Patriana

Fair Trade models donned Fair Trade outfits & accessories with “Ask Me About My Outfit” sashes or swatches. They strutted their stuff on the big stage to showcase some of the Fair Trade goodies being auctioned off during the silent auction, while guests enjoyed Fair Trade Certified Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream.

Thank you to everyone who joined us June 1, 2011, as we honored the work of:

  • Gulf Coast Activist Wilma Subra (Domestic Honoree).  Wilma  is an accomplished environmental scientist who has been on the frontlines fighting for the rights of local communities in Louisiana following the Gulf Spill. Watch her speech at the HRA here.
  • U.N. Ambassador for Bolivia Pablo Solón (International Honoree), a strong proponent of climate justice and the Rights of Nature.View his speech at the HRA here.
  • Javier Sicilia (People’s Choice Honoree) , a poet building a movement to free Mexico from the spiraling violence of the ‘war on drugs.’ Watch his speech here.

Photographer Natalie Mottley

All in all, the 9th annual Human Rights Award Gala was a great time. If you weren’t able to make it, we hope to see you there next year!

The event was photographed and filmed by pros, and we’ll be sharing some of those clips n pics down the road a bit.

In the meantime, I brought my camera along to snap a few pics on my own during the event. Below are a few of them, plus one from photographer Natalie Mottley. Hope you enjoy!

2011 Human Rights Awards Gala Photos

Liza Gonzales and Medea Benjamin

Jason Mark, Antonia Juhasz, and Wilma Subra

Beth Rogers-Witte Garriott and Ashley Cline

Wanda Whitaker checking out the silent auction

Walter Turner and Pierre Labossiere

Kylie Nicole-Nealis and Cheryl Meeker

Mary & Mike Murphy and Kevin Danaher

Kevin Danaher and Jeff Furman

Javier Sicilia and Ted Lewis Photo Credit: Natalie Mottley

Pablo Solón and Carleen Pickard

It’s springtime in the Bay Area, and we’re ramping up for our ninth annual Human Rights Awards Gala happening on June 1st at the historic Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco.

Ben & Jerry’s Co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield graced us with their presence at the gala last year, but this is the first year they will actually emcee the event, so those who attend are in for an extra sweet treat!

Since 2001, the Human Rights Awards Gala has brought together activists, supporters, and friends to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations working for human rights from around the country and around the world.

This year on June 1, 2011, we honor the work of Gulf Coast Activist Wilma Subra (Domestic Honoree), International Honoree U.N. Ambassador for Bolivia Pablo Solón, and People’s Choice Honoree Javier Sicilia, a poet building a movement to free Mexico from the spiraling violence of the ‘war on drugs.’

Ben Cohen and Yours Truly at our 2010 Human Rights Awards Gala

As you can probably tell from this picture on the left here, our awards gala was a great time last year, so if you’re in the Bay Area on June 1st, I hope you join us as we hear inspiring stories, dine, dance and celebrate along with Ben and Jerry, our Honorees, and your fellow social justice advocates.


To purchase tickets: Order online here (early bird rate ends on May 13th)

General event info: Visit the event website at

Its been a whirlwind of activity since we launched the book The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, during Earth Day week with our partners at the Council of Canadians and Fundacion Pachamama, in time for the first ever United Nations dialog including Rights of Nature. The emerging conversation around nature’s rights was elevated to a whole new level.

Introducing the UN all-day dialog was Bolivian Ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solon, who we are so proud to announce is our 2011 Human Rights Award International Honoree. He along with Domestic Honoree Wilma Subra and People’s Choice Honoree Javier Sicilia will be honored June 1 at our awards gala in San Francisco.

To catch up on the book launch, and the historic events at the UN (including Amb. Solon’s inspiring speech), check out this blog post. The book launch event in New York was attended by 450 people, and in San Francisco, although much smaller, was covered by 5 separate media outlets. The book, with contributions from Vandana Shiva, Desmond Tutu, Maude Barlow and our own Shannon Biggs, among many others has sparked a whole new conversation.

In the book, Ambassador Solon writes:

We are facing a debate in the United Nations among those who believe we need to strengthen the capitalist logic as it relates to Nature, and others that suggest we should recognize Rights of Nature. … The future of humans and Nature depends on the path humanity chooses.

For more information about our 2011 Human Rights Awards Gala and the honorees, and to purchase tickets to the Gala, please visit the Human Rights Awards website.

Don’t miss out on receiving your own copy of The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth! To order your copy and make a much-appreciated donation to Global Exchange, please visit our online action center or contact Kylie Nealis.

Global Exchange is pleased to announce the winner of our 2011 Human Rights Awards People’s Choice Contest, Javier Sicilia, as chosen by THE PEOPLE, supporters of Global Exchange and human rights around the world.

Mr. Sicilia is a poet building a movement to free Mexico from the spiraling violence of the ‘war on drugs.’ He will be honored at our annual Human Rights Awards Gala happening on June 1 at historic Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco.

Find out more about this exciting event.

Mr. Sicilia joins our other 2011 Human Rights Awards recipients, Pablo Solón, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN, and Wilma Subra, Gulf Coast activist. You can learn more about all of our human rights honorees past and present here.

Javier Sicilia is a Mexican father, poet, and citizen who lost his son in a drug war massacre on March 28, 2011. Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega was murdered along with six friends in an act of violence that Morelos state authorities immediately dismissed as “a settling of accounts.” Juan Francisco and his friends’ murders took place in the context of more than 38,000 mostly nameless victims of this cruel and unnecessary war.

Rather than retreat to the shadows of shock or fear, Sicilia has turned the pain of his searing loss into a tool for peace by convening marches and building a movement to free Mexico from the dogmas, dark alliances, impunity, and political expediency that fuel this tragic war.

I could go on and on about what an awesome, courageous, inspiring man Javier Sicilia is, but instead just watch this video:

More than 1200 people elected Javier Sicilia to be the Global Exchange “People’s Choice” human rights award winner. As the People’s Choice honoree, he will receive $1,000 in honor of his work and will be recognized during the Human Rights Awards gala celebration.


Join Mexico’s growing peace movement that has called for a massive civic mobilization this Sunday, May 8th. The main event will take place in Mexico’s Zocalo and will be echoed by marches and vigils in many countries. More info here.


If you’ll be in the Bay Area on June 1st, I hope to see you at our Human Rights Awards gala for a night of inspiration, celebration and fun! For event info click here and to buy tickets for the event click here (by May 13th if you want to score the Early Bird discount!)

P.S. Two of my personal heroes Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (founders of Ben & Jerry’s) are emceeing the event. How awesome is that?!

Yesterday, nature had a voice at the United Nations in a first of its kind dialogue about what it will take to live in harmony with nature, and what role the United Nations must play.

The all-day interactive dialogue, sponsored by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, was packed with global UN delegates. In his opening remarks, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN (and 2011 Global Exchange Honoree), Pablo Solon said,

“Humanity finds itself at a crossroads: Why should we only respect the laws of human beings and not those of nature? Why do we call the person who kills his neighbor a criminal, but not he who extinguishes a species or contaminates a river? Why do we judge the life of human beings with parameters different from those that guide the life of the system as a whole if all of us, absolutely all of us, rely on the life of the Earth System? Is there no contradiction in recognizing only the rights of the human part of this system while all the rest of the system is reduced to a source of resources and raw materials – in other words, a business opportunity?”

Leading civil society thinkers, activists Martin Khor, Vandana Shiva, Cormac Cullinan and others spoke about the need to promote a holistic approach to sustainable development in harmony with nature. Scientists also shared their national experiences on criteria and indicators for measuring sustainable development in harmony with nature.

This dialogue stands as the first step toward what many believe will culminate in the adoption of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, and as Maude Barlow, water activist and Chairperson for the Council of Canadians says, history will serve as “a companion piece to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as one of the guiding covenants of our time.”

The Council of Canadians, Global Exchange, and the Fundacion Pachamama also released our book The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. Copies were made available to all UN missions.

Contact Global Exchange for your own copy of the book: Rights of Nature. Or make a donation of $50 or more to Global Exchange, and received your own signed copy of the book.