By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BALI, Indonesia, Dec 18 (IPS) – This
resort island, better known for drawing foreign tourists due to its
tropical splendour and its deep spiritual traditions, is poised to
enter the vocabulary of another international set — the rapidly
expanding global civil society movement.

Bali will soon join the ranks of places
that have served as milestones in the world of activism, such as
Seattle, in the United States, and Porto Alegre, in Brazil, for
hosting the hugely contentious two-week international conference on
climate change that just ended here.

The presence of Walden Bello at the
United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), held from Dec. 3 –
14, hinted at Bali's emerging significance. For the 62-year-old
Filipino had, till this month, stayed clear from the debates raging
about a warming planet due to greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions, the
major cause of climate change.

Bello's central interests in almost 35
years of activism lay in combating dictatorships, opposing the
economic policies of the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation,
and protesting against United States -led military campaigns in Asia
and the Middle East. The thin, slightly greying Bello, who heads
Focus of the Global South, a Bangkok-based think tank, had
consequently become a fixture among civil society activists drawn to
campaigns against exploitation, injustice and the abuse of power.

So what has changed? Why have climate
change policies attracted new faces like his to join the more regular
crowd of activists from the traditional environmental groups like
Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund at the Bali meeting?

‘'We are here because of the
broadening character of the climate change crisis and the solutions
being proposed at the Bali meeting,'' Bello told IPS. ‘'It is
no more about techno-fixes. It has become a global emergency for
which issues such as trade, justice, equity and democracy have to be
factored in. And that is where our strengths lie.''

It was a view echoed by other
non-governmental groups and think tanks known for their work in
development, poverty alleviation and humanitarian assistance, such as
the Third World Network, Action Aid, Oxfam and Via Campasina. They
were prominent in the meetings on the consequences of climate change policy for the world's
poor that took place on the sidelines of the main Bali event, which
had attracted ministers and government leaders from nearly 190

According to Bello, there were at least
100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who have an interest in
trade and justice issues out of the nearly 350 NGOs that participated
in the UNCCC. ‘'Now there are more players in the arena, because
we need to stop powerful governments and corporations trying to profit from the economic
issues at stake,'' he added. ‘'These are areas where the
traditional climate change groups have not paid much attention.''

The five major themes that came under
scrutiny during the two-week meeting illustrated this shift in
climate change politics. Only one of them – a blueprint to reduce
GhG emissions through urgent mitigation policies – was limited to
science and technology. Others touched on economic, social and development issues, having a direct
bearing on the world's poor, who, according to scientific reports,
will bear the heaviest burden as the climate changes. They included
an ‘Adaptation Fund,' to finance programmes to help the poor in
the developing world cope with dramatic changes in the environment.

Environmentalists who have long been
involved in the shaping of climate change policies are welcoming the
new alliances within the civil society organisations (CSOs) that were
forged during the Bali conference. ‘'These new voices are
welcome, since the classic environmental NGOs, like ours, have been focusing most of our
attention on mitigation and in trying to reduce greenhouse gases,''
says Michael Goo, climate legislative director, at the Natural
Resources Defence Council, a Washington D.C.-based green lobby.

‘'Five years ago, adaptation was
seen as a kind of dirty word among environmental NGOs. There was
concern that adaptation was going to be used as an excuse to avoid
mitigation,'' he said here in an interview. ‘'But, there has
clearly been a shift over the past few years in the climate change

Government officials from the
developing world who were in Bali to draft a roadmap to deal with the
future challenges of climate change also gained from the new CSOs who
have stepped into the climate change arena. During the second week of
the conference, activists from the global humanitarian agency Action Aid held a briefing with
the Group of 77 and China, a bloc that represents 130 developing
countries, to expand on the links between a warming planet and

‘'The analysis they presented to us
at that meeting became very useful during the official negotiations
here. It revealed the depth of inequity the poor would face from some
of the solutions that were being discussed,'' Pakistani
ambassador Munir Akram, chairman of the G-77 and China group, told
IPS on the last evening of the UNCCC. ‘'One case in point was the
per capita emission levels between the developing and developed
countries and also the difficulty developing countries will face in
addressing poverty with sustainable development.''

That meeting was to drive home the
message that there was a ‘'missing perspective in the
discussion,'' said Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, regional policy
coordinator for Asia at Action Aid. ‘'It can no more be limited
to a discussion only about the environment. What we have in Bali are
questions about politics and power, like the issues of trade and
finance being taken up. That is why we are here.''

His group used the meeting in Bali,
which attracted some 11,000 people, to drum up support for a new
perspective ‘'based on environmental justice.'' ‘'There
has to be a comprehensive approach, integrating climate change with
the poor's right to development,'' said Rashed, who, like
Bello, has long years as a political activist but was a first-timer
at a climate change conference. ‘'We cannot be fence-sitters