Open letter to the Klimaforum10-initiative and other concerned parties:
The Danish organizers of Klimaforum09 have from a distance followed the discussions concerning the formation of a possible Klimaforum10 in Cancun.
With the hopeful aim of preventing misunderstandings, and perhaps contributing to a little more unity, we (the Danish board of Klimaforum09) would like to share with all concerned parties what the vision of Klimaforum09 was, what dilemmas we encountered during the preparation in 2009 and what we learned from the event.
First of all, however, we would like to make our position clear regarding a possible Klimaforum10 in Mexico:
We, the Danish board of Klimaforum09 recommend the Mexican, Latin American and international grassroots movements to join forces in order to prepare an open, political people's space during the COP16 in Cancun – whether it is called Klimaforum10 or something else.
It is our hope that we may learn from Klimaforum09's experiences, mistakes and successes, in a way that contributes to the further strengthening of the grassroots and civil society movements throughout the world and the further development of the movement of movements, which is so vital, if we really want to change the system and save the climate. Let us not limit the mobilization for climate justice but rather bring our movements together and forward.
As we are informed, this is also the intention of the group of Mexican organisations, who have chosen to call themselves the "Klimaforum10-initiative". To our knowledge there is nothing in this initiative that contradicts the 'spirit of Klimaforum', while at the same time being open for new ideas and perspectives. We therefore give this initiative our moral support, which however does not imply that we do not welcome the ideas and efforts of other groups and initiatives.
We urge all concerned and radical voices to come together to create a diverse and determined forum for the social, political and ecological movements.
The visions, dilemmas and lessons of Klimaforum09:
When Klimaforum09 approached its closure on December 17th 2009, the international advisory board of Klimaforum09 urged the Danish organizers to arrange some kind of transfer of the Klimaforum-spirit to the Mexican civil society. We decided to do this by a symbolic handover at the closing session of Klimaforum09 to those representatives from Mexico, Meso-America and Latin-America, who were still present at the Forum.
In doing so, it was now in the hands of primarily the Mexican grassroots movements to come together, to organise an open grassroots forum that could truly challenge the power-makers at COP16.
The Danish Klimaforum-organisation terminated with the closure of Klimaforum09. Furthermore we have only a very superfluous knowledge of the grassroots movements and the political situation in Mexico. For these reasons we have not been an actor in the preparation and formation of the Klimaforum10-initiative. All we have done is to bring forward to the Mexican and international movements the lessons we learned. And to call for collaboration.
We would off course be pleased if the Klimaforum-name was kept alive in relation to COP16 and future COP's – but this is in no way a vital issue and we fully understand if the local organizers should prefer another name. We chose this name in Denmark because it signalled an association with the Social Forum-movement, which was an important signal in the Danish context at the time.
It is important to emphasize, that Klimaforum09 was organized by an alliance of approx. 30 small grassroots organisations in Denmark. These organisations included not only climate and environmental groups, but also small scale family farmers, coastal fisher folks, spiritual groups, social movements, solidarity groups etc. All though not formally included in the organisation, we also had support from progressive trade-unions. This alliance represented some of the most radical voices in the Danish civil society – voices that are normally marginalized both in the media and in the institutions of power.
We excluded political parties from our organisation, because we did not want Klimaforum09 to become a fighting-ground for various parties. However political parties were not excluded as organisers of seminars, workshops etc. In fact nobody was excluded at this level.
The Klimaforum-organisation did not include any of the mainstream environmental NGO's. From the very beginning these NGO's where very negative towards the idea of an autonomous people's forum. They were apparently content with participating in various side-events at the Bella Center itself.
The negative attitude of the mainstream NGO's was further enhanced when we decided to have a political platform for Klimaforum09 denouncing false solutions as well as false ideologies like "sustainable growth" etc.. We found it essential in this way to signal, that there was a distinct purpose of and direction to Klimaforum09 – it was not just a media event, on the contrary: It was a movement building forum.
The political platform thus gave us a direction in the preparation process, which among other things opened up for initiating the Declaration-process, which eventually led to the adoption of a rather ambitious and comprehensive document.
The early split between Klimaforum and the mainstream NGO's presented us with a severe dilemma: How to finance such a Forum!? We estimated very early that we would need 1-2 million euros to pay for proper locations, interpretation, to be able to invite activists from the Global South, to hire a small secretariat etc. In no way would it be possible for us, to raise this sum from our own organisations – and we of course also excluded sponsorships from private companies.
This left us with the option (together with basic fundraising): To persuade the Danish state and the municipality of Copenhagen to finance the event. In this endeavour we could appeal to a historical tradition in Denmark for state support to events like this. At the UN Social Summit in Copenhagen 1995 the state supported a similar event with about 5 mio. Euros.
We spent more than a year on this issue of finance, and it was a very hard struggle, where we had to be very tactical, while at the same time preserving our autonomy and integrity. This was not easy – in fact it was a true and difficult dilemma.
We managed quite early to convince officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that such a Civil Society's Climate Forum was a good idea. We also quite early received at least moral – and later also important logistical support from the municipality of Copenhagen. But the government was clearly not at ease with our political concept and they tried very persistently, to control us and kill us.
This was done by the formation of the Peoples Climate Action (PCA) – an assembly dominated by the mainstream NGO's. PCA was given 3 mio. Euros by the government and the mandate to finance so called 'civil society projects'. We therefore had to apply for financial support in this newly constructed organisation. Furthermore the PCA tried to take over our organisation and reduce the Klimaforum-alliance to practical organisers, while the PCA should take the overall political responsibility for the Forum.
Of course we rejected this and for almost 6 months the situation was totally stalled. However, finally in May 2009, PCA accepted our autonomy and we received about 1 mio. Euros to organize Klimaforum09. The result of this whole delay was off course that we by now had very little time.
Many problems – of both a practical and a political nature – in the preparation of Klimaforum09 can be attributed to this serious lack of time. We had no practical experience in organising an event of this size – and most of the participating organisations had no real experience with the international political networks and debates. Everything – more or less – therefore had to be invented in the process.
Being overburdened with organisational and logistical tasks, we did unfortunately not have many resources to engage in discussions with our international partners of various sorts. This caused serious communication problems, which is one important lesson we have learned.
Furthermore we did not have much experience in dealing with the press, which later turned out to be a very serious problem, especially during the COP15. It turned out that we had in fact decided on a press strategy which produced a picture of Klimaforum which was contrary to the intentions of the Board.
One of the political issues we discussed throughout the entire preparation period was the relation between Klimaforum09 and various demonstrations in the streets, among these the CJA-organized actions of civil disobedience.
Some of these actions, especially "the reclaim power action", were very controversial to a number of the organisations behind Klimaforum09. A decision to formally support the reclaim power action would certainly have led to a severe split in the Board as well as in the network of Klimaforum09. After all Klimaforum09 was an alliance of many different organisations and could therefore not take decisions on behalf of these organisations beyond the common platform. For this reason the Board decided not to have an opinion and not to engage as Klimaforum09 in activities outside the forum itself. It was left to the individual organisations to make up their own minds on these issues.
As a consequence one board-member of Klimaforum09 left the board and the issue created tensions throughout the remaining preparations. As a matter of fact, it is still creating tensions.
Despite these difficulties end differences we, the organizers of Klimaforum09, are generally satisfied with the outcome of the Forum. 50.000 people visited the open space during the 12 days of COP15, there were more than 300 events generally of a high quality, a lot of important discussions took place and many contacts were made. We also find that the discussions on and the adoption of the Declaration from Klimaforum09 was a significant achievement.
It is off course difficult for us to assess the international impact of Klimaforum09, but in Denmark at least, it has resulted in a strengthening of our national alliance of small grassroots organisations, who have therefore decided to continue their collaboration. The consequence is that some of the more radical voices have gained renewed momentum after many years of marginalisation.
We finally hope that this account of the process towards Klimaforum09 may be of use in the preparation of an open space for grassroots movements during COP16 in Mexico – whether it is called Klimaforum10 or something else.
On behalf of the Danish Board of Klimaforum
Mathilde Kaalund-Jørgensen and John Holten-Andersen