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Bolivia to host alternative climate conference in April 2010

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LA PAZ, Bolivia – In April of this year Bolivian President Evo Morales is expected to officially open the First World Conference of the People on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, to coincide with the UN-declared ‘International Day of Mother Earth’. The conference can be expected to galvanize the attention and energy of minority and indigenous peoples’ rights activists throughout the region.

According to an Associated Press news report, the conference, which is slated to be held in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba from April 19 to 22, has on its agenda a world referendum on climate change, the creation of an international climate crimes court, and forcing industrialised countries to transfer technology and to acknowledge and pay “climate debts”.

Building on a nascent human right to a healthy environment, the conference is intended to lead to the drafting of “a universal declaration of rights for Mother Earth”. It will also be a gathering-place for those engaged in climate change, including minority and indigenous peoples’ organizations, to develop a “strategy and position” for the next official UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico.

During a January 2010 press conference announcing the event, Morales, who is of indigenous Aymara background, issued an open invitation to governments, social activists, indigenous groups, environmentalists and scientists. The aim is to have them analyse the structural and systemic causes that drive climate change, and propose ways to fund measures that enable the “well-being of all humanity in harmony with nature.”

The initiative comes after the December 2009 COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, which is widely viewed as a disappointment, given that it did not lead to any binding instrument between states parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Bolivia was one of the states that refused to sign the Copenhagen agreement after claiming that a small group of rich nations had concocted the deal in secret without input from poor countries.

There is good reason for Bolivian concern over climate change. The countries of the southern cone of South America, including Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, have been experiencing abnormal weather patterns in recent years. These have produced torrential rains, unprecedented floods, droughts and landslides rendering thousands homeless and causing loss of crops and livestock especially in indigenous and peasant communities that can ill afford further impoverishment.

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