Shit buffers

This is one of those horribly difficult posts to write.

Monday was the worst day of the whole conference so far for us. I (Isabel) spent the day careering around from one place to the next trying to pull strings that I don’t have, and just generally being entirely at the mercy of the UN process.

The day started badly by my alarm simply not going off, and so I woke up an hour and a half later than planned, resulting in my strategy of arriving at the Bella Centre before the hoards of other people, not coming off.

Sure enough, I joined the mass of a thousand or so people outside the main gate where the Danish and UN police simply weren’t letting anyone through.

When I finally got inside good news was waiting for me. What had started the week as a pie-in-the-sky aim of being accredited as party delegates actually became  reality; as the 5 of us who have been helping Kiribati for the last week, officially became part of the Kiribati delegation! We got our Pink party badges:

This takes the Kiribati delegation numbers up to 20, a lot for a small developing  island you might say….I don’t. We met with their lawyer who explained what roles everyone in the delegation has. They send us to the meetings they think might be useful, and don’t need to show their faces at, and the ones that are a gamble, hence the new name for ourselves: shit buffers.

Just to illustrate their situation further, there are countries with a lot less native delegates, e.g Mauritius have 4, El Salvador have 5. Like Kiribati they were probably worried about the cost of flights and hotels for 2 weeks. Apparently Germany offered to pay the airfares for the prime minister/president and the first lady of all the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to Copenhagen, if they stopped off at Berlin to meet with the German Government! A little odd, and there must some kind of agenda here-presumably based around adaptation, but as Kiribati said, if it gets them here what does it matter?

In stark comparison, the Chinese delegation has bought 232 party delegates, that’s almost one for each hour of the conference!

Either way, we know that Kiribati have felt supported in their best endeavours here at COP15 because they have us when they get too tired, they have us to get to the smaller events, they have us to do research they need quickly, they have us to rely on. How must smaller delegations numbering less than 15 feel without fellow negotiators to prop each other up, and without a secondary support system like us? Alone and confused I can tell you. It’s difficult enough being out of the real world for 2 whole weeks, in a whole different country, with strangers, a lot of whom are pitted against you. It makes for a hostile, ‘every man for himself’ kind of situation on a grand scale. We realise that our pink badges are indicators of the success of UNfair play, but, and this is a big but, never has such an incredulously great and seemingly unreal moment been marred by such frustrating events.

Further to our team of 6 (now 5 as Tina has gone home) were to be 4 others who arrived on the weekend and attended the second week of negotiations to increase our team to be able to achieve even more. 3 of them (all friends from Bristol) got into the queue outside the Bella centre at 8.30 AM. Everyone inside was told that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) would be heavily restricted come Tuesday: 7000 secondary badges (for a system called double badging) are to be issued for Tuesday and Wednesday, 1000 for Thursday (if they don’t introduce triple badging!) and only 90 for Friday.

Yes that’s right, 90 people will represent the whole of planet earth who aren’t Government.

Anyway, our three weren’t victim to this yet. They queued from 8.30 AM until 7.30 PM that’s 11 HOURS!!

11 HOURS in the freezing-literally freezing-cold.

11 HOURS without access to water.

11 HOURS without access to toilets.

11 HOURS without access to food.

I had to hang around outside for an hour to get in, and I was cross, these guys stuck it out for 11. I am pretty sure that this was an abuse of human rights in some way.

When they finally got in the warm, Jon and Sam managed to get their NGO accreditation (we didn’t manage to get them party badges), but Katie, because there was an extra and irrelevant middle name that she is informally known by on the accreditation list, was not allowed in.

I fought and fought on her behalf, not least because she was so tired she could hardly speak, but mainly because the guilt of dragging them here under false pretences, spending my day inside when I knew they were frozen to the bone outside, and simply the fact that I was mortified at her having to spend 11 hours queuing only to be turned away. A woman next to us who worked for the UN, very eloquently and calmly put in a complaint about the abhorrent conditions under which people were subjected to that day, she said she was “ashamed to be associated with the UN”. I have to say that when I walked in a free man so to speak, past what I can only describe as a cage keeping back the hoards of people needing and wanting to be registered, I felt sick to the stomach and red with shame. I don’t want to be here if I am in the elite, this is a democratic sham.

We refused to budge, even though it was an  hour and a half after the UN staff should have left, we the last ones there, and we weren’t aggressive we were just tired, stressed and simply wanting a badge with her name on. We eventually realised that it was not going to work; they had had their orders ‘from the top’. The system inside here is no longer subject to subjectivity on the part of the person you’re dealing with, or the effects of your charm on their ego, the orders from on high remind us that we are about to be in the biggest summit of the world leaders in a long time. This is security without exclusivity; the same man who turned Katie away had turned away ministers whose names also weren’t correctly spelled, this is no joke and I am not laughing.

All that keeps running through my head is get up stand up, stand up for your rights….get up stand up, stand up for your rights…..get up stand up


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4 responses to “Shit buffers”

  1. Daniel V says :

    Totally amazing isabel… Totally…

  2. mamjanet says :

    Wish I had freinds actually in cphn who could organise support for the hoards outside, that is just awful.
    well done all of you, keeeeep going for them
    do you need any immediate financial support for yourselves or kiribati delegates?

  3. Daniel says :

    Hey Isabel,

    just read your story of becoming a party delegate – wonderful work you did! What are you up to now?

    • Isabel Bottoms says :

      Hi Daniel,
      I am currently revising for my end of year exams : (
      After that though I will be going to Bonn again, with UNfairplay, altho just me and Sam this time. And we’re thinking about setting up a website for meetings of minutes to be uploaded to, which delegates and NGO’s can access from home without flying across the world.
      I notice your email address, are you based in America?

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