LA PAZ - Through their
ancestral knowledge and traditions, indigenous peoples will make a
unique and invaluable contribution to the World People’s Conference on
Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which begins Monday,
Apr. 19 in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba.
Quette of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia
(CIDOB) told IPS that the 74 different indigenous groups who inhabit
South America’s Amazon region "have traditionally coexisted with nature
and the forests," and that it is up to the industrialized countries to
halt the pollution and destruction of the planet.
For her part, Jenny Gruenberger, executive director of the
Environmental Defense League (LIDEMA), commented to IPS that "Bolivia
could make an enormous contribution based on the traditional knowledge
of the indigenous and aboriginal nations that make up this
The country is officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia,
in recognition of the fact that over 60 percent of Bolivians belong to
one of its numerous indigenous ethnic groups.
A total of 17 working groups have been organized as part of
the World People’s Conference, to address issues such as the structural
causes of climate change, living in harmony with nature, and the rights
of Mother Earth, or Pachamama.
The other working groups will focus on a proposed global referendum on
climate change; another proposal to establish a Climate Justice
Tribunal or International Environmental Court; climate migrants;
indigenous peoples; the climate debt; a "shared vision" for action (a
concept introduced by developed countries under the Bali Action Plan
adopted at the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference); the
Kyoto Protocol; climate change adaptation; financing; technology
transfer; forests; the dangers of the carbon market; action strategies;
and agriculture and food sovereignty.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is an Aymara Indian himself,
announced that the conference will be attended by fellow presidents
Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Hugo Chávez of
Venezuela, and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay.
More than 15,000 people from 126 countries around the world have registered to attend.
Among the prominent figures whose participation has been confirmed by
the Bolivian Foreign Ministry are Alberto Acosta, president of the
Constituent Assembly of Ecuador; Miguel D’Escoto, Nicaraguan diplomat
and former president of the United Nations General Assembly; and Edigio
Brunetto, a leader of Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).
In addition, more than 50 scientists, social movement leaders,
researchers, academics and artists from around the globe have agreed to
speak on 14 panels, including Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva,
best-selling Canadian author Naomi Klein, and Uruguayan writer Eduardo
"Latin American organisations and governments could acquire all the
capacity they need to confront the influence of the industrialized
nations and become a center of resistance against the current
development model, but first they need to agree upon a unified stance,"
LIDEMA research coordinator Marco Ribera commented to IPS.
Ribera said that it is time for the region’s countries to put aside the
"different interests" they each pursue and to use the Cochabamba
conference as a forum to build "strong technical and political
proposals with a high degree of legitimacy to negotiate at the 16th
Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Ribera believes the upcoming conference could become a new forum for
the struggle in defence of the planet, given the opportunity it will
provide for the world’s people to express their views and proposals,
"an opportunity they are not offered in official forums for
Justo Zapata, a Bolivian energy expert, spoke to IPS about one of the
issues that will be addressed at the conference: the campaign for the
use of "clean" fuels.
Bolivia has the second largest reserves of natural gas in the Americas,
with proven and probable reserves of 49 trillion cubic feet. Yet the
population continues to consume large quantities of gasoline, liquefied
gas and diesel fuel, for which the government spends 500 million
dollars annually to subsidize low prices, said Zapata.
Venezuela provides the country with gasoline and gas oil, both highly
polluting fuels, while the population of the Brazilian city of Sao
Paulo enjoys the clean natural gas exported by Bolivia, he noted.
Rectifying this situation is a matter of both economic and
environmental defence, stressed Zapata, who called for large-scale
initiatives such as the construction of domestic natural gas pipelines
to benefit the population, as well as an end to neoliberal-inspired
trade policies that prioritize exports over the domestic market.