The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has been identified as the site of this year’s COP17 alternative space, known as the ‘People’s Space’, where national and international civil society will come together around the global issue of climate change.
The contract to utilise UKZN was signed on November 3, 2011, between the C17, a body mandated by over 80 South African civil society groups to coordinate civil society activities around COP17, and UKZN management, with the assistance of the university’s Centre for Society and School of Development Studies.
Strengthening the climate justice movement
C17 aims to provide a space in which to strengthen the climate justice movement in South Africa, while at the same time consolidating civil society actions across the world during the two weeks of negotiations.
The establishment of a parallel space at COP negotiations each year responds to the marginalisation civil society frequently experiences at these events and the lack of progress that has been made by international governments in addressing climate change.
‘The People’s Space’ will thus serve as the space in which the people of the world can make their voices heard and where civil society can work towards creating another vision for addressing climate change by building a strong movement of like-minded activists and ordinary people from around the world.
Situated just six kilometres from the official UNFCCC event at Durban’s International Conference Centre (ICC), UKZN’s Howard College will provide room for key civil society events for the duration of the two-week conference from November 28, to December 9, 2011. C17 will engage with eThekwini Municipality to provide transport between the ICC and UKZN.
Expected to attract 5000 to 6000 people
The People’s space is expected to attract between 5000 and 6000 people during the course of the conference. Events include the Conference of the Youth (COY7) the weekend ahead of COP17, the international labour movement’s Pavilion of Work, as well as numerous panel debates, art exhibitions and film festivals.
While the People’s Space was initially intended to be held at the Durban University of Technology, C17, which is coordinating the space, eventually settled on UKZN and secured a number of venues to accommodate civil society events.
“C17 recognises the value of bringing as many South Africans as possible to participate in the COP and decided to use our limited funding to do so. We chose UKZN as our next-best option based on criteria of distance and cost,” says C17 coordination subcommittee convenor Siziwe Khanyile.
In addition to access to The People’s Space, C17 is coordinating the Global Day of Action on December 3, 2011, to relay civil society’s dissatisfaction with the pace of the UNFCCC negotiations. A peaceful march through the streets of Durban attended by upwards of 20 000 people will be supported by people around the world as they take action in their home countries.
C17 will also establish a climate refugee camp at Block AK near the ICC from the December 1 to December 6, 2011, highlighting the plight of climate refugees worldwide.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal will be the host site for the ‘People’s Space’ activities, organised by civil society, associated with the international climate change negotiations to be hosted in Durban from November 28 to December 9. These activities will include public seminars, exhibitions, films and cultural activities. Many of the world’s leading experts on climate and civil society will be on hand over the fortnight. Academics and activists will intermingle with those attending the United Nations COP17. The UKZN Centre for Civil Society and School of Development Studies will arrange local public events, web access and media relations to ensure that civil society’s views are heard and respected.
The Civil Society Committee for COP17 includes representatives of various organisations including social movements, labour, environmental justice organisations, international environmental NGOs and faith-based organisations. It is a facilitatory body established to coordinate the participation of international and national movements and organisations of civil society in the common process but will not seek to represent them or to enter into negotiations with, or lobbying of, governments on their behalf. Rather, the C17 seeks to create opportunities for civil society engagement in the 2011 climate change negotiations during 2011, civil society engagement with the South African government around climate change negotiations and positions, a platform for the expression of diversity in civil society and environmental movement building in South Africa and the region.