In 1992, the United Nations formally recognized civil society as valuable actors in environmental decision making.
Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration states that “environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” It is a surprise, then, that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat announced that civil society participation will be greatly limited at the COP15. The UNFCCC Secretariat reports that this decision is due to over-capacity at the Bella Conference centre.
According to a memo sent out by the observer organization liaison, the 22,000 registered observers were limited to 7000 today, on Thursday this numbers will be further limited to 1000, and on Friday only 90 observers will be permitted access to the negotiations.
In response to the limit on participation, a collective of environmental organizations issued a statement charging the process as undemocratic.
It is true that the details of complex negotiations often pan out behind closed doors; but it is also instructive to ask how the negotiations might change with the lowered numbers of civil society.
Everything from the plenary atmosphere to the public pressure felt by negotiators will vary - and perhaps greatly so. It seems as-if the Rio Declaration needs rewriting to reflect the negotiating realities of climate change.
Otherwise, the UNFCCC Secretariat needs to strengthen its commitment toward civic engagement.
Check out what will sure to become known as the legendary Copen-lines: