WATCH: Calls for Gaza ceasefire ring out in Dubai as 2,000 protesters march on COP28 grounds

From the UAE to Uganda, more than 300 cities are standing up for Palestine, the activists say

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE)–About 2,000 climate activists attending the ongoing COP28 in Dubai have joined the global action on Saturday — demanding climate justice and protection of human rights.

Carrying a huge black banner emblazoned with “Ceasefire Now” in bold letters, written in English and Arabic, the protesters shouted their call while marching around the UN-controlled Blue Zone.

“We are coming together to march for climate justice to show solidarity with the people of Palestine and demand ceasefire now,” speakers at the protest said.

From the UAE to Uganda, more than 300 cities are standing up for Palestine for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, COP28 Coalition, an alliance of more than 350 climate civil society organisations from 75 countries, told Khaleej Times.

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“It is up to the peoples of the world to call not only for a ceasefire but for the end of decades of settler colonialism and apartheid. The climate justice movement echoes the call being made by social movements everywhere,” the coalition added.

COP28 has two zones – first is the Blue Zone which is under the jurisdiction of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) while the climate summit is underway. It is open only to UN-accredited participants and it is where formal climate negotiations are taking place. The other one is Green Zone, which is open to the general public and is under the UAE.

Largest demonstration

The protest on Saturday, approved by the UNFCC, was the largest demonstration yet at the UN Climate Summit in Dubai which concludes on Tuesday. The number of demonstrators was tenfold than the previous sit-down rally held on December 3, which turned emotional as climate activists teared up when names of Palestinians who died in Israeli bombing were read out.

The organised march on Saturday that lasted for two hours was louder and more defiant. Numerous protesters wore keffiyehs, waved watermelon banners and carried placards that say ‘Land back; Stop the occupation; Right of return’ as loud chants of ‘Ceasefire now!’ ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, the occupation has to go’ and ‘The people united will never be defeated’ reverberated around the UN-controlled Blue Zone at COP28.

Photo by Angel Tesorero

Photo by Angel Tesorero

There were also calls for immediate climate action and equitable financial support to communities highly impacted by climate change.

Speeches focused on the key demands for climate justice and outright end of violence in Gaza as Israel’s bombardment, according to Palestinian Health Ministry, has killed more than 17,000 people – with 70 per cent of them women and children, and also injured more than 46,000 individuals.

Storytelling, singing at the protest

Chants and agitations were constantly made but there were also storytelling, humming, and invocations conducted by Indigenous people who also came in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Protesters also sang a song for peace, which is also a “prayer for healing, justice and a cry for liberation.” Part of the lyrics say “May this body be a bridge for the healing of this land… teach us oh Great Mother to bring peace to this land.”

Global actions

Meanwhile, the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) shared with Khaleej Times pictures of protest actions simultaneously held across Asia, including cities and towns in the Philippines; Katmandu, Nepal; Manipur and several states in India; and various locations in Pakistan.

Philippines (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Philippines (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Manipur, India (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Manipur, India (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Pakistan (Photo supplied by APMDD)

Pakistan (Photo supplied by APMDD)

They said: “We are making it clear: Climate advocates stand for victims of genocide. We fight for the oppressed as we stand for the environment.”

The Global Day of Action for Climate Justice also condemned the US veto on Friday of the UAE-led UN resolution demanding immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The vote in the 15-member council was 13 in favour of the resolution while one (US) was against, while UK abstained. #

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This report is original to the Khaleej Times where the author is a senior deputy editor.

Filipinos who lost homes, lands call for protection of indigenous rights at climate summit

by Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Helen Magata and Josefa Isabel Tauli traveled from one of the mountain ranges of the Philippines to the golden sands of Dubai. Their mission extends beyond raising awareness at the ongoing COP28; they carry a vital message calling for climate justice “by protecting indigenous peoples’ rights.”

As the two-week UN Climate Summit has reached its midway point, environmental activists like Magata and Tauli are intensifying their pleas for active participation in climate negotiations and, more specifically, equitable representation in the recently established loss and damage fund.

This fund, conceived to aid vulnerable communities in mitigating the costs of escalating climate-related disasters, marked a historic moment on November 30 with an initial commitment of more than $420 million led by the UAE. However, Magata and Tauli assert that the true challenge lies in ensuring that these financial resources are channelled directly to the communities most affected by climate change, particularly the indigenous groups, bypassing intermediary entities such as government units or large corporations.

“The realization of the fund is an achievement after years of assertion by climate-vulnerable communities,” Magata and Tauli said.

Helen Magata (L) and Josefa Isabel Tauli. Photo: Angel Tesorero

Helen Magata (L) and Josefa Isabel Tauli. Photo: Angel Tesorero

“Now, the bigger challenge is to ensure the financial resources for climate action are actually directed to support the communities that bear the brunt of climate change. We want to see the funds go directly to the indigenous communities and not through state or local government units or big corporations,” they added.

Magata is the coordinator for the climate and biodiversity program at Tebtebba Foundation based in the northern Philippines, while Tauli is a member of the youth advisory group on climate change to the UN Secretary-General.

‘We are made invisible and voiceless’

The women activists fear funding for climate adaptation and biodiversity conservation will go to other parties instead of them. “They (government and state authorities) decide on our behalf when in fact it has historically been our territory, and yet we are made invisible and voiceless,” they said.

Magata and Tauli added: “It must be noted that around 80 per cent of the remaining biodiversity in the world – from the rainforest in South America to the mountains, valleys and rivers in Asia – are protected by the indigenous people.

Indigenous peoples are the original settlers in a given territory and their history dates back to pre-colonial times. They have distinct social and cultural traditions that are tied to their ancestral lands. Their source of living is also connected to the natural resources and the land where they live.

“We are being made victims twice over – first, when climate change dissipates our natural resources; and second, when false development projects evict us from our lands,” they said, explaining: “We call them as false development projects because they don’t actually benefit us. For example, if a certain territory is declared a protected area for so-called carbon sequestration, the indigenous people living there will be disallowed to till the soil for food and agriculture.

“Some renewable power projects – like the building of dams – displace us from our ancestral lands. Homes and farmlands are flooded. We are dispossessed and cut from our traditional food sources,” they added.

Magata and Tauli also raised the issue of environmental activists being criminalised and, worse, killed for their actions. “In the Philippines, for instance, more than 100 climate activists have been killed in the past ten years for speaking up,” they added.

Free, prior and informed consent

The activists are demanding climate solutions based on free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), noted Mrinal Kanti Tripura from the Maleya Foundation, an indigenous peoples’ organisation working on environment, climate change, human rights and development in Bangladesh.

The FPIC is a framework mandated by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It aligns with their universal right to self-determination “to provide or withhold/ withdraw consent, at any point, regarding projects impacting their territories.”

Tripura said climate change adaptation should strike a balance between curbing emissions, protecting nature and indigenous communities, and boosting food security. He added climate finance should not drive more debt for developing countries in the name of funding development projects.

“All processes must have free, prior and informed consent before dealing with projects in the communities,” Tripura underscored, adding: “Fund must go directly to indigenous peoples, and we should have actual representation in the climate fund.” #

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This report is original to the Khaleej Times where the author is a senior deputy editor.