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el salvador: building a movement to resist climate change

Climate change is severely affecting the environment and people’s livelihoods in Central America. Rainfall patterns are changing, storms, flooding and droughts are increasing, and crops are failing, pushing poor communities deeper into poverty.

el salvador: building a movement to resist climate change

Because free trade agreements tend to marginalize precisely those communities most severely affected by climate change, such as small farmers and fisherfolk dependent on natural resources, the current drive to agree new free trade agreements also threatens to contribute to climate injustice.


what happened?

In June 2008, Friends of the Earth El Salvador / CESTA hosted the first regional meeting of The Movement of the Victims and Peoples Affected by Climate Change (MOVIAC), a new peoples’ movement which aims to increase the power of communities to defend their territories and to demand climate justice. MOVIAC decided to organize a series of activities at the Third Social Forum of the Americas to be held in Guatemala in October 2008.


MOVIAC members played an active part in key events at the Forum. These included a seminar entitled ‘The voice of the victims and peoples affected by climate change’, where people shared the problems their communities are facing and explored ways of resisting climate change.


Irma, a member of ACUDESBAL, a community group from Bajo Lempa, El Salvador, told the seminar how her communities have suffered from floods and harvest losses. “It is strange - where we live it hasn’t rained much, but we have suffered severe floods,” she said, and described how the communities are organizing themselves to carry out rescue tasks, and alert people to risks and evacuate when necessary. Meanwhile, the Salvadorian Government remains indifferent to the need to face up to the impacts of climate change.


A young Colombian speaker, Federico, explained that in his region climate change is also a reality already. He said, “the way in which we use our land is key to facing climate change. We need to fight for the redistribution of land, but it is also fundamental that the peasants use the land for different purposes than those of transnational corporations.”


Javier Baltodano, from the FoEI Forest and Biodiversity Program, stressed that forests are key to resisting climate change and that communities need to work hard to defend and restore their diverse community forests. He also alerted participants to the impacts of false solutions to climate change that are being put forward, such as the expansion of agrofuels, and carbon markets and offsets.


FoE and MOVIAC representatives also joined a public demonstration against the EU-Central America Association Agreement, as governments were meeting for the 5th round of negotiations. Social movements and organizations demanded Climate Justice Now! and shared the successful experiences of communities, organizations and movements who are resisting and fighting against climate change.


The demonstration was followed by debates within smaller groups on issues such as food sovereignty, health, and forests and biodiversity. The groups focused on identifying strategies to guide the collective struggle.


what changed?

During the Americas Social Forum, social movements and organizations developed and agreed a series of strategies to strengthen their communities in the struggle against climate change.


They concluded that there is an urgent need to recuperate their collective lands, and to be better organized at the local level, in order to resist the destruction and privatization of their territories, and to recreate diverse local production systems to serve the needs of their communities. This will entail reclaiming their ancestral wisdom and values, their native and local seeds, their medicinal plants, their traditional food and farming methods, as well as their forests and water. It also implies fighting against free trade, mining and genetically modified organisms. It essentially demands building solidarity and unity amongst the communities and strengthening communal life and identity.


what next?

FoE El Salvador and Friends of the Earth Guatemala / CEIBA will continue to facilitate the collective process of building a strong movement for resistance and transformation, and will organize a second forum for MOVIAC in 2009.


with thanks to our funders: the sigrid rausing trust, the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis) and oxfam novib


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