We are concerned that the climate negotiations will be a farce if they are conducted in an atmosphere of fear, threat and intimidation.
More than a hundred 100 civil society organisations and activists have spoken out against a crackdown by the Polish government to protest at COP24.
Following a bill passed in the Polish parliament that will deny environmental campaigners the right to protest, activists are calling for the act to be repealed and say it sets a dangerous precedent.
Noelene Nabulivou, Diva For Equality and Pacific Partnerships on Gender, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development said: “We are concerned that the climate negotiations will be a farce if they are conducted in an atmosphere of fear, threat and intimidation.
Fear and intimidation
“People of the Pacific are already facing loss and damage to ourselves and our environment. Meanwhile we are working to change social, economic and environmental models that are damaging people and the planet.
“So the last thing we want to see at this time is a roll back on state commitments to civic freedom and climate change action.”
The bill will give power to the Polish government to subject human rights defenders to state-led surveillance including access to and storing of personal information.
Alma Sinumlag, Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC), said: “I have participated and protested at COP before and never felt threatened.
"I am deeply concerned that environmental defenders, especially indigenous women, urban poor and rural women human rights defenders from every region of the world who plan to participate in COP24 this year in Poland will face great risks.”
According to the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, the year 2017 was the deadliest year for environmental campaigners. At least 197 human rights defenders were killed for protecting their land and resources.
A spokesperson said: "If patriarchal, authoritarian governments make this trend a norm, then 2018 could be an even worse year for human rights defenders and their communities."
Human rights violation
Sascha Gabizon, from the Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF ) in the Netherlands, said: “The bill infringes on the European Convention of Human Rights and sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the basic human rights and fundamental freedoms outlined therein, particularly the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and of speech.”
Activists say the new law not only threatens civic space in Poland but could limit the success of the climate summit. They say activists play an important role in the global climate debate by providing relevant information to policymakers and the media and they can only carry out their work where they can effectively exercise their right to freedom of assembly.
Catherine Harte is contributing editor of The Ecologist. This story is based on a news release from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development