Friends of the Earth Among Activists Barred from Copenhagen Conference Center

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by
The Guardian/UK

Friends of the Earth Among Activists Barred from Copenhagen Conference Center

Security intensifies ahead of mass action to invade summit as 115 world leaders arrive for high-level talks

by
John Vidal and Jonathan Watts in Copenhagen

Members of Friends of the Earth groups from around the world who arrived at the Bella Center this morning to take part as official observers in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations taking place were told that their badges were no longer valid. (Courtesy of FOEI)

Friends of the Earth international, Avaaz, TckTckTck
and other mainstream environment coalition groups were refused entry to
the Copenhagen conference centre this morning, without being given any
reason.

The Bella centre is the focal point for climate
activists who are aiming to invade the summit today. Around the city,
some 150 arrests have been made this morning as part of an
intensification of security to keep the lid on actions in the
conference centre as the first of 115 world leaders arrives in Copenhagen amid the major protests.

In
a separate development, hundreds of non-government groups are to be
individually banned from the centre or have their numbers slashed from
tomorrow to make way for world leaders. Only 1,000 people from civil
society will be allowed in to the conference hall tomorrow, and 90 on
Friday.

This has provoked dismay with many delegates
seeing it as a deliberate attempt to muzzle public voices and criticism
of world leaders.

Andy Atkins, the director of Friends of
the Earth UK, said: "We understand there has been unhappiness at some
of the actions inside, but no formal explanation has been given. It is
completely out of order. People are outraged at what is going on. Big
mainstream organisations are being muzzled. This is madness."

Around
50 members of the group staged a sit-in at the inner lobby of the Bella
centre. Friends of the Earth international is the largest international
environmental federation in the world with groups in more than 70
countries.

TckTckTck is a global alliance of environment,
development, church and human rights groups, Avaaz is a web-based
pressure group which has organised thousands of climate meetings around
the world. Together they claim to represent more than 10 million people.

"So
many people are being excluded. The process is farcical. Civil society
is being shut up, developing countries are being shut up, critical
voices are being shut up," said Nicola Bullard, working with Focus on
The Global South, a member of the climate justice movement.

"There's
a lot of frustration among civil society that we are not moving quickly
enough. There are obstructionist tactics. There are debates and
arguments. As civil society we feel that they don't care," said Tom
Goldtooth, a Bolivian with the Indigeous Environmental Network. "We
feel they are negotiating for the sake of corporations instead of for
the betterment of the people of the world."

In a later development, the UN offered Friends of the Earth International 12 places for the conference, but this was declined.

Magda
Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "If
Friends of the Earth is not allowed inside the UN negotiations we
cannot play our crucial role in bringing the voices of citizens to the
talks, especially the voices of those who are disadvantaged and already
suffering most because of climate change. These draconian measures are completely unjustified. We said no to accepting 12 places."

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