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SOUTH ASIAN CLIMATE JUSTICE CARAVAN: DECLARATION AT PEOPLES' SAARC, NOV 2014, KATHMANDU

Presentation to the inaugural of PSAARC in Kathmandu, Nepal
     Dated 22-24 November 2014
By Badrul Alam, Co-ordinator of the South Asian climate Justice Caravan and President of Bangladesh Krishok Federation; E-mail: gip@dhaka.net

Dear Madam Chair, distinguished guests speakers and respectable audience. Heartiest congratulations to all of you on behalf of South Asian Climate Justice Caravan! I would like to share with you the experience of the caravan that we have already done.

The caravan started from Dhaka, Bangladesh on 10th of November 2014 with 160 participants from different countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, USA, UK, Germany, Australia, Sweden and New Zealand. We arrived in Kathmandu yesterday evening. Today is the 13th day of our long overland journey. The caravan hosts include Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, Bangladesh Adivasi Samity, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labor Federation, Ekattra in Bangladesh; National Hawkers Federation, Informal Sector Workers' Action Alliance and Jana Sanghati Kendra in India; All Nepal Peasants Federation in Nepal.

It is unfortunate that 17 of our participants were stuck on the Indian side of the border as they were not allowed to enter Nepal by the Indian port immigration according to the lame excuse of having no Nepali visa but we all know Nepal gives port entry visa to Bangladeshi citizens. All of our delegates have their multiple entry Indian visas. So, there was no strong reasonable ground for denial. Following the advice of the same Indian immigration authority they bought plane tickets to come to Kathmandu for joining the PSAARC but they were not allowed by the airport immigration except one person who took his visa in Australia. So the immigration pushed them into further big monetary loss as well. They went back home with bitter and painful experience of the immigration personnel. The whole situation reminded again the urgency of visa free South Asia which we have been demanding over the years. 

Our caravan was for South Asia, covering three countries: Bangladesh, India and Nepal. It was a caravan on Climate Justice, Gender and Foodsovereignty. The main message of the caravan was to highlight the planetary emergency which is in force. Our only living earth planet so far found in the whole universe is in peril due to the global climate change as well as global warning. Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions account for climate change and industrially developed countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and European countries have been emitting GHG for the last 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. So they are the major actors responsible for the global climate change. They have been doing so for their development, life-style and over-consumption. Transnational Corporations (TNCs) are playing pivotal role in Green House Gases effect on the atmosphere and the mother earth. They are doing everything for their own profit and capital. The human beings and existence of the mother earth is below their profit making target. They are just profit-mongers, nothing else. The caravan defended the declaration of the right of mother earth adopted in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2010 which recognized the living existence of the earth and the importance of its ecology.

Yet climate change has become a great concern at global level because of the continued pressure of the global resistance. The responsible countries could not help but talking on this issue. They (Annex-1 countries) even acknowledged their role in the climate crisis and made frequent commitment to cut in emission in order to keep the average temperature of the earth below 1.5 Degree Celsius. But they do not keep their commitment, rather continuing to emit GHG. Now the average temperature of the earth is nearly 2 degrees Celsius, higher than the average, which is so alarming.  

Owing to the adverse impacts of climate change, the entire world is facing devastating super calamities with extreme weather events, like cyclones, storms, water-surges, desertification, droughts, crops failure in agriculture, rising sea level, change in season's cycles, excess heat, excess cold, excess rainfall, excess snowfall, salinity in the coastal belts, melting of concentrated glaciers in Himalayas and in both north and south pole, and so on.

During the caravan in different workshops, seminars, exchange of opinions and rallies we assessed that the food sovereignty ensured by agro-ecology is under threat in the context of global climate change. The caravan agreed on the fact that peasant-based sustainable agriculture with small scale peasants, family farmers and indigenous people can feed the world with nutritious food without causing any harm to the climate.

The caravan expressed concern about the AR-5 (Assessment Report-5) of IPCC which has given an indication of the dreadful consequences the earth will encounter unless there is no significant change in the carbon reduction level. It has predicted the disappearance of coastal countries and small island states in the world within the 21st century. 

The caravan also expressed concern about the level of carbon in the atmosphere which has crossed the ‘safe’ level, 350 PPM. Now it has crossed even 400 PPM. It is over the tolerant level of the atmosphere which existed for millions of years, presenting an acceptable ecology for human beings. The caravan advocated keeping the carbon level in the atmosphere within 350 PPM by reducing GHG emissions.

The caravan put emphasis on the question of climate justice and gender. It clearly assessed that climate justice is the historical and ecological dues of the responsible countries and they have to pay to the global south in the form of reparation. Women are extremely and disproportionately victimized by climate change and deserved the reparation on the priority.  

The caravan argues that South Asia consists of one-fifth of the world’s population and the majority of the population still goes hungry and live in poverty. They have their right to reparation. Following a democratic method, the reparations should go to the people who are affected by the climate change, but have not caused it.

The caravan stressed on the question of building alternatives to climate change from below, not sitting idle. So it has emphasized adopting everywhere agro-ecological farming methods which cool the planet. It also advocated for the use of some renewable energies, namely community controlled solar power, windmills, bio-gas generation, small scale hydro power generation, effective geo-thermal power generation and many more other options instead of fossil fuel-based dirty energy which is contributing to climate change.

The caravan clearly rejected the false solutions like CDM, agro-fuels, REDD+, GMOs, carbon off-setting, smart agriculture, green economy, etc. so far proposed by the UNFCCC as answers to climate change. These will further aggravate the climate crisis. The caravan thinks that the real solutions lie in the grassroots.  

60 percent of the world resources have already been used up by the TNCs. The remaining 40 percent is ocean, sea, forest, air. They are also trying to grab these resources. The caravan is strongly opposed to all types of resource grabbing including land, which is the main source of lives and livelihood of the people.

The caravan highly criticized the adoption of GE Bt. Brinjal (Eggplant) in Bangladesh whereas it is banned in India because of its negative consequences. The caravan considered GMOs unethical and they should have no future. It strongly defended the local seeds for our future, guaranteeing our food sovereignty. It underscored to protect, preserve, conserve and restore the indigenous seeds for ecological balance protection.

The caravan expressed the deep concern of the climate forced migrants which is a reality in the whole world. Their right as climate migrants should be protected by the framework of UNO (United Nations Organization). Presently there are 250 million climate migrants in the world and it is on the increase.
During the caravan there were lots of interactions, sharing, lessons-learned among the participants who met thousands of people on the ground who are naturally trying to adapt to and mitigate with the climate change on their own experience. However, it does not mean that the responsible countries should continue with emissions. It is just an example of the capacity of the grassroots people.
The main objective of the caravan is to build a strong grassroots movement network in South Asia which will be a complement to the global campaign on climate justice.

The caravan urged the Official SAARC to demand climate justice to the northern developed countries for the benefit of the global south. It has also demanded to strengthen the food and seed bank mechanism under SAARC for both the reduction of hunger and for the protection of rich bio-diversity and genetic resources in South Asia.  

A declaration of caravan is under way. It will be submitted to the official SAARC here in Kathmandu and to the climate conference in Lima, Peru to be held next month, prioritizing the grassroots people’s experiences and a proposal to the solutions to the global climate crisis.

Hereby I am ending my presentation by saying that we have had very fruitful, productive, constructive and effective caravan in terms of outreach, and repercussions amongst the people and the caravan participants. However, still we have a long way to go and the ultimate victory is in the hands of the people. We demand system change, not climate change. We have to go hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, united. Long live South Asia with peace, prosperity, democracy, non-communality, secularism in a visa-free region with people to people and movement to movement connectivity! Long live international solidarity! Long live South Asian regionalism!  
Thank you, Madam Chair and thank you all.

Appendix-2:
Declaration of the South Asian Caravan 2014 on Climate Justice, Gender and Food SovereigntySubmitted to the People's SAARC, Kathmandu, Nepal and UNFCCC meeting (COP 20), Lima, Peru.

We men and women, small farmers, Adivasis, agricultural labourers, workers, fishfolk, landless people, plantation workers, hawkers and youth organized a caravan across Bangladesh, India and Nepal to bring people together for climate justice and peoples solutions to the climate crisis. Our 13 day South Asian Climate Justice, Gender and Food Sovereignty Caravan, was organized by the Bangladesh Krishok Federation; Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, Friends of Bangladesh and All Nepal Peasant's Federation and included these movements as well as the Bangladesh Adivasi Samity, Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation, EKOTTRO, National Hawkers' Federation, Progressive Plantation Workers' Union, All Nepal Women's Association, MONLAR, and La Via Campesina which are peoples movements struggling for dignity and the rights of rural and working people. We visited 12 towns and cities of Bangladesh, India and Nepal. We were joined by many in the same struggle from our sister peasant organisations of India; Sri Lanka; Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines; as well as friends of our struggles from the U.K.; U.S., Germany, Sweden and Australia. Our Caravan culminated in a three day 'People's SAARC' held in Kathmandu, Nepal where movements came together to discuss alternative solutions to the climate crisis and hold demonstrations demanding climate justice. Together we are part of the global people's resistance for climate justice.

In the towns and cities we held meetings, workshops and seminars on the key issues facing our communities. Through this caravan it became clear to us that our problems are shared by our brother and sister farmers in South Asia and across the world. These are dominated by the planetary emergency created by the climate crisis. Our very existence is becoming precarious through landlessness; land grabbing by elites; local government corruption; gender inequality and discrimination (especially women's dual labour in the household and in the fields), and the imposition of industrial market-based agricultural methods (including the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers) which have increased our production costs and debts and forced peasants from their lands and livelihoods.

Climate change is aggravating such problems and also making farming difficult due to flooding; salt water inundation; cyclone damage; desertification and drought; and unseasonal and unpredictable weather. These are being caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources particularly from the wealthy industrialized countries, but also from industrialized elites in countries such as China, India and Brazil. They bear the responsibility for climate change but the poor in the Global South are bearing the burden and suffering of climate change. Given these crises faced by us we totally reject the market-based interventions into Bangladeshi, Indian, Nepali and Sri Lankan agriculture that aim to further worsen our conditions. The false solutions to the climate crisis that world leaders are pushing at the ineffective UNFCCC process are an attempt by multinational corporations that have caused climate change in the first place to further take over what is left of our lands and livelihoods.
In farming they are pushing through false solutions like climate ready GMOs (such as Bt. Brinjal in Bangladesh after it was rejected by India following farmers' resistance); petrol based polluting fertilizers; biochar; agrofuels at the cost of food; increasing monocultures; and programmes such as the framework of Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). The polluters think that by throwing money at poor countries through loans tied to promoting these false solutions, they can continue to emit carbon and at the same time take over our agriculture. We reaffirm our rejection of, and struggle against, all transnational corporations that pursue profits before people's livelihoods. We demand that the efforts of the people be supported to enable real peoples solutions to the climate crisis.

WE DEMAND
(i) comprehensive land reform including land and land titles for the landless; all land grabbing by elite interests and multi national corporations needs to be stopped.
(ii) government support for small farmers that feed the world and cool the planet - small farmers need fair prices for their produce, interest free credit, subsidies, guaranteed markets, insurance against disasters, self reliant ecological agricultural methods such as traditional farming methods which need state sponsored research. Small farmer agriculture needs support for food sovereignty of our nations. We oppose dependence on food produced by polluting industrial agriculture and imports.
(iii) recognition of peasant women's dual burden of farming and household labour and the end to all gender discrimination and inequality.
(iv) constitutional recognition and rights for Adivasi peoples and support to indigenous farming.
(v) reparation rather than loans paid to the governments of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka and the rest of the Global South as part of the climate debt owed by industrialized countries of the Global North.
(vi) all adaptation measures to climate change to include full participation and consultation with local communities.
(vii) a legally binding agreement to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions signed by all governments responsible for those emissions.
(viii) a full and just transition to community-controlled renewable energy.
(ix) legal rights for all climate refugees.
(x) a visa-free South Asia.
(xi) protection of, and end to the privatization of, all biodiversity and genetic resources in South Asia.
(xii) respect for the rights of Mother Earth.
Our demands form part of the wider movement for climate justice emerging across the world enshrined in the 2010 Cochabamba Declaration. We call for a further intensification of international solidarity between farmers movements and networks (such as La Via Campesina; Asian Peasant Coalition; South Asian Peasant Coalition;  Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty, Jubilee South Asia and the Pacific on Debt and Development) Climate Justice Networks such as Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action; trade unions; and indigenous and Dalit peoples movements.
We demand system change, not climate change.
The South Asian Caravan 2014: Climate Justice, Gender and Food Sovereignty November, 24th, 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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