Hundreds in environmental protest through Durban streets
Durban streets were awash in green as environmental activists, schools and indigenous groups from all over the world gathered to protest what they called big business’s monopoly on forests on Thursday.
Almost 1 000 people walked from City Hall to Speakers’ Corner, a patch of fever trees near the Durban ICC, to hand over a memorandum to the XIV World Forestry Congress officials detailing their issues with the conference and its agenda.
Several schools, carrying colourful, hand-made placards, and activist organisations, including Greenpeace International, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Timberwatch Coalition, Biowatch and Health of Mother Earth Foundation, all lent their voices to the protest.
In a joint statement, the organisations said they handed their position document to Motsamai Nkosi, programme manager of the congress secretariat and official at the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“The message taken up by the marchers was: ‘Forests for life, not for business.’”
Executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, addressed Nkosi and those gathered, saying: “To the leadership of the (congress), I have spent a lot of time inside (the ICC) and I know there are good people fighting for the right things. But I have also seen that there are people holding us back.
“To the developing countries, we need to remember that we have not created the problem of climate change, yet we continue to bear the burden… The developed countries need to take greater responsibility.”
Nkosi said he would take the concerns into the congress and make sure “their voices were heard”.
“We want you to be part of the discussion.”
Another organisation – Red Latinoamericana contra los monocultivos de árboles – took issue with the congress not discussing the “forestry model” which favoured the use of monoculture plantations that benefited only a handful of large corporations.
“(The event) is inaccessible to those affected – local communities around the world – due to high registration fees, and thus is an elitist and anti-democratic event,” they said.
They said the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation needed to engage with those on the ground and hold meetings in “all forest regions and continents and in areas mostly affected” by the forestry model.