Today, we sent Christiana Figueres, Executive secretary of the UNFCCC, a letter. We wish to ask of her to let me, Clémence and Graham and Maria from Earth in Brackets back in the UN climate talks.
To: Ms. Christiana Figueres
From: Young Friends of the Earth Europe and Earth in Brackets
12 November 2013
Appeal to overturn unprecedented decision to ban three activists
We have just been informed about your decision to evict, and ‘debadge’ us. Clémence Hutin from Young Friends of the Earth Europe and Graham Hallett and Maria Alejandra Escalante from Earth in Brackets. This is an unprecedented decision that we neither understand nor support, and we therefore ask you to alter your decision so that they will be allowed back in the UNFCCC negotiations here in Warsaw.
With respect, we can only assume, based on the disproportionate severity of this punishment, that the decision has been based on misunderstanding or misinformation.
To this end, this letter is intended to explain and clarify the context and events leading to the ejection of our delegates, so that you have the full understanding of the events and can reconsider your position.
You heard with us the powerful and moving statement by Yeb Sano, the negotiator of the Philippines. Yeb emotionally spoke of the situation in his country; he spoke of the massive destruction wielded by super typhoon Haiyan, breaking down recounting how his brother was digging dead bodies out with his bare hand.
His speech moved many negotiators and members of civil society to tears.
Yeb received a standing ovation in support, and delegates held an unprecedented 3 minute silence in solidarity, creating one of the strongest and most emotional moments in the history of the UNFCCC.
As Yeb Sano made his way to the exit, a group of around thirty civil society members, predominantly young people, agreed with Yeb to accompany him to his next meeting, a side-event. Most of these young people knew and worked with Yeb last year when another typhoon hit the Philippines during the climate talks.
While proceeding towards the exit, a member of Young Friends of the Earth Europe informed the head of UN security of our intention to accompany Yeb, assuring him that we would not block anything or cause trouble. The chief of security agreed to this.
Yeb Sano then met us outside the entrance, greeted us, and thanked us for the support. However, the media also wished to speak to him and gathered around him: he paused to speak to the reporters. At this point, a crowd of press and civil society was forming in the corridor, and the security personnel was visibly becoming nervous due to the volume of people in the corridor. The crowd was mostly made up of members of the press and negotiators leaving the plenary. Security personnel forced members of civil society down the corridor, towards the exit.
Yeb, worried that he might be late for the side event, and wanting to walk with us, finished his media interviews and made his way out of the corridor hastily. At this moment, civil society, as planned, accompanied Yeb, while some of our group, emotional from the events, held up signs as a peaceful gesture, a gesture of solidarity to Yeb Sano – and not as a political protest.
The signs simply showed the names of the provinces hit by the typhoon and one sign read “How many more?”. These signs had been made for a sanctioned action the next day, which did take place today.
They were shown, purely and simply to show the support and solidarity with Yeb Sano and the people of the Philippines. They were shown not to conflict with any rules, not to make any political statement.
They were shown simply to express deep solidarity with people who are still looking for their relatives, and who are mourning in the wake of this terrible disaster.
The signs were held for under five seconds, at which point two security guards closed in and demanded them to remain behind. They were given no warning that action would be taken because they were holding a sign. Rather, the signs were forcibly ripped from their hands and the three were reprimanded and escorted out of the building.
We were all conscious of the fact that we were participating in what might have become an action unsanctioned by the secretariat. Our wish was not to break the rules in any way – as we are thankful for this opportunity to attend the climate talks and make our voices heard.
This is why we wish to stress the fact that this gesture was unplanned and spontaneous. It was an intense, emotional and important moment for all of us in the hall. The banner was not political in the least: we wished only to express our pain, sadness, and solidarity with Yeb and the people of the Philippines.
It was not a protest, it was a simple gesture of support. There were no security issues whatsoever: we were not blocking the pathway, we were not chanting. We were only there peacefully, to accompany a national delegate to his next event.
We cannot understand your decision to de-badge our members. We believe it sends the wrong message to evict youth attending their first-ever COP, expressing solidarity with the Philippines, on the first day of the talks.
We would be greatly thankful if you consider this letter and send us a response, by 2pm tomorrow, 13th of November.
Please write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org We hope you now have all the information necessary to reconsider what is clearly an erroneous decision.
We ask of you to let our young activists attend the climate negotiations again.