Together with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Food & Water Europe, CounterBalance, PowerShift, Corporate Europe Observatory and Friends of the Earth Europe organized two conferences in Brussels dealing with the issues around gas in 2016 and 2017.
In both years, participants from the Global South faced serious obstacles which finally led to a number of persons not able to attend the conference. The organizers of the conference drafted an open letter to the Belgian authorities to protest against the unfair practices the conference participants from the Global South had to face and which shaped the form and outcome of the conference.
On September 24, one year after the 2017 conference, the open letter, signed by over thirty organizations, was sent to the Belgian authorities.
We hope that at the next Brussels gas conference in spring 2019, all those invited will be able to join no matter what their country of origin is.
Open Letter to the Belgian Authorities
Lifting obstacles to international solidarity and successful international conferences
For the third time in a row, an international alternative gas conference will be organized in Brussels. This conference aims at connecting grassroots groups, academics and organizations across the globe to better work together towards a world without fossil fuels.
Sadly, both during the preparation of the first and the second conference, participants from the Global South, particularly from Africa, faced inappropriate, incomprehensible barriers connected to their visas. As a result, many of them could not attend.
We see it as a serious issue that increasingly strict European migration policies prevent a balanced participation in international conferences. These international meetings play an important role in shaping the pathway Europe needs to take, within a global context, to lead us into a carbon-free future.
It is clear that an inclusive, broad dialogue between representatives of the Global North and Global South is absolutely central in taking meaningful steps towards sustainability and climate justice. Preventing, in an unforeseeable and unfair way, the access to these debating spaces directly undermines the global work that is being done to create a clean, fair and just future.
Our series of alternative gas conferences aims at tackling a global problem – the role that fossil gas plays in creating climate change. The Global North contributes to a disproportionately large extent to a changing global climate, while on the other hand communities in the Global South suffer most from its effects. It is therefore imperative to involve particularly those most affected by decisions taken in Europe in a process to find solutions to the issues around gas, respecting human rights, the Paris Climate Agreement and strengthening democracies.
Already the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU states that the contribution of “promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular combating climate change” shall be objective of Union policy.
Creating, and not blocking spaces like international alternative gas conferences to work towards this aim has to be a priority for EU Member States.
We cannot work on global issues unilaterally; these discussions have to happen with representatives from non-EU countries and we therefore urgently ask you to take measures to avoid unfair practices leading to de facto travel bans from certain countries.
Blatant inequalities concerning freedom of movement and a resulting privilege to travel for citizens of certain countries block attempts to work together in a balanced way and contributes to silencing the voices of those most affected by climate change.
The travel/visa issues that participants of our conferences faced are clearly not an isolated issue, and action needs to be taken on a broad level to end this injustice.
Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Uganda) Dickens Kamugisha
Agro-Ecologie et Environnement Vert (Tunisia), Mohsen Kalboussi
Amigos de la Tierra (Spain), Héctor de Prado
Attac France, Maxime Combes
Attac Maroc (Morocco), Lucile Daumas
BankTrack (Netherlands), Claire Hamlett
Biofuelwatch (UK), Frances Howe
Citizens’ Concern Africa (Uganda) Sam Mucunguzi
Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium), Pascoe Sabido
Counter Balance (Czech Republic), Xavier Sol
Ecologistas en Acción (Spain), Samuel Martín-Sosa
En Commun (France), Philippe Assens
Food and Water Europe (Belgium), Frida Kieninger
Frack Free United (UK), Leigh Coghill
Friends of the Earth Europe (International), Antoine Simon
Gastivists Berlin (Berlin), Lea Dehning
Gastivists Collective (International), Noelie Audi-Dor
Integrating capacity and community advancement organisation (Tanzania), Zahra Salehe
Justiça Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), Anabela Lemos
KlimaKollektivet (Denmark), Tannie Nyboe
Les Amis de la Terre France, Lorette Philippot
Les Amis de la Terre Togo, ASSEM Ekue
Love Leitrim (Ireland)
Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Nederland)
NOAH Friends of the Earth Denmark, Nanna Clifforth
Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (Spain), Josep Nualart Corpas
Oil Change International (United States), Collin Rees
Platform (UK), Anna Markova
PowerShift e.V. (Germany), Michael Reckordt
Re:Common (Italy), Elena Gerebizza
Social Action (Nigeria), Vivian Bellonwu
UK Youth Climate Coalition (UK), Mark Robinson
Young Friends of the Earth Europe, (Belgium), Živilė Mantrimaitė