Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network in Paris 2015

​Written by Dominique Fry
This is the fourth post in our digital ethnography series​

With the COP21 proceedings in Paris this week, we have been following a number of groups. My specific group is The Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus. The WECC has a project called Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International, or WECAN for short, which is a solutions-based, multi- faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. WECAN has been a powerful force in past environmental negotiations.

WECAN participated in COP20 in Lima Peru with the Women and Gender Constituency. The group worked inside the formal negotiations and also outside of the talks in the streets along with civil society. They had panels discussing the value of women in global change and also focused on the importance of indigenous women. WECAN participated in the Lima’s Peoples March along side their Indigenous allies.

In Paris, WECAN is collaborating with the same groups inside the negotiations and also in civil society again. So far during the talks, they have had a pretty large social media presence online The main themes of all communications from Paris include emphasizing the importance of women and indigenous people in solving environmental issues and making sure women’s voices are heard. WECAN has participated in panels discussing various topics and will continue to do so next week.
I am intrigued by this group because the values of WECAN are that women are the power holders. Women need to be better represented in negotiations as well as have a louder voice. I am inspired by the values they are trying to promote and excited to see what they can do to both empower women and also bring to the table at COP21 this week in Paris.



This is the third post in our digital ethnography series
Written by Rohit D Bhonagiri
​This blog is also posted on Rohit’s personal blog


As carbon sinks of the world, forests are the lungs of this planet and the waterways its veins. Monica Camacho, from the Rainforest Foundation Norway, provides the perfect slogan “One of the objectives of the new agreement is to reduce CO2 and the best way to do that is by conserving natural forests and natural ecosystems.” Indigenous people from around the world are trying to have their voice represented although they do not receive much representation in COP21.

Indigenous communities are leading the way to combat climate change. https://t.co/rgvzCVpEFQ  #COP21 #PaddletoParispic.twitter.com/pe0L5DmrJE
— WRI Governance (@WRIGovernance) December 2, 2015

I have been up early to catch up on the press briefings for the day. At 6.30AM, I’m in the library with my fellow colleagues facing a different crisis. I usually need a dose of coffee to invigorate all the five senses, today but Kelly Stone had me at ‘food insecurity’. As a background, I come from the state of Maharashtra in India which has faced massive droughts in the agricultural lands of the Vidarbha. According to the Hindu my state has sees about 10 farmer suicides every day due to climate change and water and energy intensive GM (genetically modified) cotton.  I consider farmers as Indigenous people especially after the rise of Big Agriculture.

Ms. Stone went on further to say that land mitigation techniques for biomass and biofuels as alternative energy sources could lead to family farmers being kicked off their lands. She also spoke on behalf of a young farmer by the name of Odunke from Nigeria who came to Paris to represent his farming community but could not address the press because he didn’t have a blue pass. Odunke’s community has been continuously impacted by floods and droughts and there have been years that he could only describe as “hell”. I sat in class thinking about <em>shetkaris</em> (Marathi for farmers), reminiscing back to the days when I would drive out to the countryside, just to have a fresh jowarichi <em>bhakri</em>(a type of Indian bread made of white millet) picked off the field. Shawn, presenting on the Wildlife Conservation Society, broke my nostalgia short and I realized that I’ve seen this happen before when he showed us the image below!


Farmers and Indigenous people are the new entries in the may face extinction due to climate change category. The #paddletoparis campaign says “We are all in this boat”, except this boat is the titanic and the icebergs are melting while you are on the other side, simply surviving.

Climate equity should not be a distant ideal but the fundamental basis to these negotiations. If you are reading this right now, I urge you to support the #paddletoparis movement and lend your voice to those that have none at COP21.


Conference mentioned: Moral Compass of the Paris Accord at Stake: Inter-constituency voices by Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)

When are we going to seriously consider gender?

Written by Sarah Huang

I am writing this blog post firstly as a woman attending COP21. As I have been attending various events in the Climate Generations space, I have become very attuned to the ways in which various events and speakers incorporate a conversation about gender in relation to climate change.

After attending some events during REDD+ day at Rio Pavilion, I became really disheartened after the same perspective on gender was once again displayed at a prominent event funded by United Nations Development Programme. The man came across his slide on gender perspectives and actually said that we didn’t need to talk about this slide because it was self explanatory and then proceeded with his presentation.

The consideration of gender equity and gendered policies within climate change should not be an afterthought, nor should it just be another item on a checklist for addressing climate solutions. Women and indigenous peoples are affected most by environmental change and climate change. Rather than aligning gendered policies with only women, we must understand that gender is an incorporation of all gendered identities, and not just male and female. We must also understand the ways in which women and LGBTQ are disproportionately impacted by climate policies that do not take into account the ways that these people are left out of the conversation, left out of protection, and left out of recognition for their roles in communities.

There are many conversations about the ways in which women are closely aligned with nature, natural resources and thus the protection of children, families and Mother Earth. There are also conversations about how women hold very specific knowledge to the use of these resources. But as one woman from Kenya put it, we need to stop valorizing women’s contributions and provide them with resources to conduct action.

This perspective emphasizes the campaign for women’s rights in a way that calls for recognition of the role of women, but also for the call to action that provides women with resources and tools to implement change in their communities. This is also a perspective that is seen in the many women’s movements surrounded around environmental justice, climate justice, and grassroots activism. Women are on the ground implementing programs in their communities, fighting for their rights at the forefront, but oftentimes it is just their bodies that are represented at the front lines and not their voices.

I will close with this last thought: we must recognize that gendered identities, are not meant to be a box on your checklist of peoples that are included in your organizational programs and projects. Gender identities and the right of women fighting for climate justice is a movement and mobilization of strong women allied in their fight for recognition and access to resources, land, and the tools to continue their work. But what is really needed is the recognition of women’s voices within policy, within negotiations, within their communities, and lastly within the COP. Let this be the moment where we actually seriously consider women and gender smart climate policy where women are at the table, where their voices are the ones implementing policies that will directly impact their communities, livelihoods, and environments. So I ask, what does the actual inclusion of gender and women’s rights in climate policy really look like and what steps can we take to get there?

#EarthtoParis: How Rainforest Alliance Shares Stories from the Front Lines of Climate Change

This is the second blog in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Chad Rachubinski 

In 1987, the Rainforest Alliance was founded with the mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods by transforming land use practices, business practices and consumer. Since launching a certification program for forests in the 1990s, and expanding that certification program into a labeling mark for consumer products in the 1990s, the Rainforest Alliance has emerged as a large multinational NGO (non-governmental organization) with over 300 employees today.

Although the Rainforest Alliance still continues its primary mission of certifying farming practices and agriculture products, primarily coffee, bananas and cocoa, in recent years, Rainforest Alliance has expanded in scope and now is advocating for a larger response to climate change in addition to highlighting successful projects it has been involved in at the COP21 negotiations in Paris.

In the weeks leading up to the Paris negotiations, the Rainforest Alliance has promoted their work, as well as advocated for additional responses to climate change both digitally and in person in the Climate Generations area of the COP21 venue. The theme for Rainforest Alliance’s presence in the COP 21 arena, both physically and socially has been “stories from the front lines of climate change” in which they have been highlighting the experiences with REDD+ Projects, sustainable farming practices workshops and other initiatives by sharing the stories of farmers and forest dependent people who have been affected by climate change, or are improving farming practices to be more sustainable.

Seven days prior to the start of the COP21 negotiations, Rainforest Alliance ‘handed over’ their social media accounts to photographer and environmental filmmaker James Balog, who featured daily pictures of the effects of climate change, including melting ice caps, endangered species and forest fires. This tactic primarily evoked a sense of urgency before the negotiations and was only featured on Instagram, before the larger COP 21 theme became prevalent on all of their digital channels. Since the negotiations began, Rainforest Alliance has shifted to a storytelling approach, highlighting the forest dependent farmers and other people affected by climate change. Rainforest Alliance has also highlighted this approach in the physical space in Paris with ten delegates and a booth in the Climate Generations civil society space. In addition, Rainforest Alliance has participated in a number of panel discussions, particularly highlighting local forest governance projects in Guatemala, which have, according to the Rainforest Alliance, reduced deforestation to almost zero. By focusing on the people impacted by deforestation instead of the economics involved with climate issues, Rainforest Alliance has so far directed attention to their projects and positions, as well as their vision for the future.


Report on the Indigenous Struggle for Recognition at COP21

Written by Fernando Tormos, PhD Candidate in Political Science at the Political Science Department of Purdue University and a member of the International Network of Scholar Activists

If it were possible to do a word count of all of the words spoken in Paris during the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21), I would not be surprised if the word finance came out on top. As a leader of an indigenous peoples’ group recently told me in reference to the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) program, “money is a necessary evil; without it, we wouldn’t be here in Paris.” Yet, discussions of so-called “climate financing” or “green financing” tend to dominate the sorts of exchanges that are taking place here in Paris while discussions of human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, gender and racial equality, and the adverse effect of climate change and the extractive practices of multinational corporations on frontline communities are relegated to a second plane.[1] Environmental, indigenous, and global justice activists have faced numerous challenges at COP21. Mainly, activists are burdened with having to push the conference organizers to honor their commitment to transparency and the inclusion of civil society while also having to advocate for the recognition of human, and specifically indigenous peoples rights in the legally binding sections of the draft agreement.

One can find indications of the relegation of discussions on human and, specifically, of indigenous peoples rights in the most recently published draft of the Paris accord. Negotiators have been working on this draft for months now. Coming into Paris, after the latest round of negotiations in Bonn, Germany, the draft of the accord included a clause that articulated the purpose of the agreement and recognized the rights of marginalized groups—Article 2.2.[2] This clause is particularly important for indigenous peoples because, beyond recognizing individual human rights, it also recognizes the collective rights of indigenous peoples and of Mother Earth.
The most recently published draft of the Paris accord dealt a blow to a multitude of social movements and marginalized social groups when Article 2.2 was taken out of the main body of the draft agreement and placed in the Addendum. What this means is that the bringing the language on the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, the protection of Mother Earth, decent work and quality jobs, and intergenerational equity back into the accord is not completely off of the negotiating table. Yet, negotiators leave marginalized groups a very small window of opportunity for securing a legally binding accord that is based on principles of global justice.

The removal of this language hasn’t been the only challenge that environmental and global justice organizations have faced. On top of having to advocate for this language, indigenous peoples have had to push national delegates to keep clauses that recognize the value of the traditional and ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples, advocate for greater inclusion of civil society in the negotiations, and press the French presidency of the COP to honor its commitment to transparency.

Indigenous peoples present in Paris continue to stand firm in resistance to the denial of their rights and to the policy silences that would allow for the continuation of exploitative and extractive practices in their territories. After 21 Conferences of Parties national delegations continue to debate whether the climate accord should recognize and represent marginalized groups, and whether they should entail a form of economic redistribution. The abolitionist Fredrick Douglass once said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will…The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Environmental and global justice movements remain resilient, as they always have, in spite of the challenges that they face in these negotiations. They seem to understand perfectly what intellectuals have noted; that freedom and solidarity are constant and ongoing struggles (Andrews 2004; Weldon 2006).

After 21 Conferences of Parties of the UNFCCC, there may come a day when frontline communities and, specifically, indigenous peoples, no longer recognize the legitimacy of these international negotiations. If these international negotiations continue on the same path that they have traversed for the past two decades, these coral reefs of international activism may share the fate of our Ocean’s coral reefs.[3] This future, however proximate it may be, is hard and perhaps fruitless to predict. Yet, what does seem clear is that the oppressed of this Earth will continue to find hope and inspiration in the sacrifices that so many have made in their struggles for a more just world. Their sacrifices fuel our belief that another world is possible.


[1] A recent report by the Climate Policy Initiative provides indicators on the growth of climate financing initiatives in recent years. This report may be found at: <http://climatepolicyinitiative.org/publication/global-landscape-of-climate-finance-2015/&gt;

[2] The article read as follows: “[This Agreement shall be implemented on the basis of equity and science, in [full] accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities [, in the light of national circumstances] [the principles and provisions of the Convention], while ensuring the integrity and resilience of natural ecosystems, [the integrity of Mother Earth, the protection of health, a just transition of the workforce and creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities] and the respect, protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights for all, including indigenous peoples, including the right to health and sustainable development, [including the right of people under occupation] and to ensure gender equality and the full and equal participation of women, [and intergenerational equity].]”

[3] Sidney Tarrow (2001) referred to international institutions as coral reefs for international activism. The loss of legitimacy of these institutions in the eyes of indigenous peoples may limit the extent to which indigenous peoples spend resources and efforts on attending international negotiations that systematically deny them substantive representation and participation.

Andrews KT. 2004. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: The Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Its Legacy. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press.
Tarrow, Sidney G. 2001. “Transnational Politics: Contention and Institutions in International Politics.” Annual Review of Political Science (4): 1–20.
Weldon, S. Laurel. 2006. “Inclusion, Solidarity, and Social Movements: The Global Movement against Gender Violence.” Perspectives on Politics 4 (1): 55-74.  

Connecting Cultures at COP 21

Written by Scott Benzing


 Over the course of the past week I have spent a lot of time walking around the civil society portion of the COP 21, and one observation that I have made is how diverse the crowd of people truly is. People from all over the globe have made the journey to Paris, and every single one of them shares a passion for preserving the environment.
Even though this huge variety of races, ethnicities, and religions is present at the COP 21, most of those in attendance are dressed in suits or business casual attire, with the occasional person sporting blue jeans and a light jacket. But for some people, their attire is much more unique and meaningful. There are a number of indigenous peoples attending this conference from all over the world, and many of them have chosen to adorn their traditional clothing to the event. The vivid traditional garb worn by these people provides a stark contrast to the sea of ties and khaki pants, and draws the attention of everyone who passes by. Whenever someone wears a particularly intricate or colorful outfit, it is not uncommon to see a small congregation of people huddle nearby taking photographs.
Indigenous peoples at COP 21 are not limiting themselves to only dressing in their traditional attire, they are also sharing their languages, songs, stories, food, and cultures with everyone in attendance. All of the events involving indigenous peoples are limited to one area of the civil society building, but that has not stopped them from permeating through the rest of the venue.
Today I was fortunate enough to witness an older Russian indigenous woman in traditional clothing perform throat singing to a techno beat that a young French DJ was playing in the middle of the convention. The crowd of people around the stage was huge, and everyone in attendance cheered and applauded this beautiful mixing of cultures. This is just one example of how people have been putting aside their cultural differences here in Paris in order to make connections with others. Regardless of what the policy outcomes of the COP 21 negotiations are, I will leave Paris with a smile on my face knowing that all these thousands of people came together in harmony for at least a little while.

False(?) Presentations of the Inclusion and Recognition of Indigenous Peoples

Written by Sarah Huang


 Today I attended a panel organized by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) called “Indigenous Voices and Climate Change: Outcomes of National Indigenous Peoples-Gov. Dialogues”. This panel included five indigenous peoples from Tanzania, Guatemala, Thailand, Vietnam, and Samoa as well as three government representatives from Dominican Republic, Norway, and Guyana. The dialogue that occurred throughout this meeting was interesting in the sense that it seemed to be guided by this relationship of collaboration between government and indigenous peoples, whether there was government recognition of indigenous peoples or not. The goal of these dialogues is to create more equitable spaces by incorporating the views of indigenous peoples in the negotiations. These dialogues will show the impact of climate change on livelihoods that will facilitate a trusting relationship between government and indigenous peoples, a relationship that has been severed in many cases.
While this process of indigenous participation and representation at this so called ‘table’ is encouraging, I think it is really important to be critical to the ways in which indigenous peoples are being invited to this ‘table’, or the ways that the government talks about indigenous representation. For example, one of the government representatives talked about the importance of government to educate local peoples on the effects of climate change and adaptation of climate change. This discourse about educating indigenous peoples undermines the authority and autonomy that indigenous peoples have over their own knowledge systems, but also over their own experiences. It assumes that their experiences are not legitimate in their own right and require governmental intervention and education in order for it to have an authority that is recognizable by government and other state actors.

So when I was trying to write a title for this blog, I was thinking about different ways of thinking about this issue. It seems like a struggle of legitimation, authority, and autonomy, but I think at the heart of it is really this issue of recognition and the right to be recognized. This right for recognition and respect of rights is a demand that indigenous peoples have been pushing for here at COP21, and was definitely lacking in this specific panel presentation from government officials. It makes me wonder about the relationship between recognition and legitimacy and the role that legitimacy may play in the recognition of indigenous rights. Does a recognition of indigenous rights require the legitimacy from government or does the demand for a recognition of indigenous rights from indigenous people create an autonomous legitimacy?

It also makes me think about something talked about yesterday during Africa Day, where many indigenous peoples spoke about false solutions to climate change that result in the displacement of indigenous peoples through development of clean energy solutions (examples include geothermal energy and hydropower). I think this term ‘false’ is an appropriate representation of how indigenous peoples are once again at the short end of a just climate solution that is based on the continuous colonialist discourses that were displayed in this panel session earlier today. The idea of legitimizing indigenous peoples’ knowledges and experiences through an ‘education about climate effects’ is the same strategy of colonialism and imperialism that indigenous peoples have experienced for too long. It is time to advocate for a climate change solution that is recognizes the colonialist history of oppression and proposes a decolonized approach for a just system. And maybe then, we may actually understand indigenous recognition where governments, heads of state, and COP21 delegates have the capacity to understand indigenous livelihoods and experiences in respect their autonomy and rights.