Europe accused of dirty tricks in Copenhagen
Europe, the US and other advanced nations have been accused of pressuring developing countries to pull experienced negotiators and excluding them from access to draft documents in an effort to undermine their position at the bargaining table.
Ahead of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen that opened on Monday (7 December), Bernaditas Muller, co-ordinator for the G77 and China group of countries was suddenly dropped from the Philippine delegation without explanation.
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"The exclusion of Bernarditas Muller, a long-time diplomat, is a cowardly acquiescence to the US, EU, Japanese, Canadian and Australian pressures to eliminate vocal defenders of developing countries' interests from the negotiations," read a joint statement of almost 40 environmental and development NGOs including Oxfam, the WWF, Christian Aid and Greenpeace condemning the move.
Ms Muller is one of the most experienced climate negotiators in the world, having been involved in similar international discussions dating back to the UN Conference on Environment and Development Rio de Janeiro in 1992 - the first major global talks on climate change - and has frequently been a thorn in the side of industrialised countries.
"She's an extremely experienced negotiator, with an in-depth knowledge of the convention," Lim Li Lin, a legal advisor with the Third World Network, a group of NGOs close to developing nation governments, told EUobserver. "Very few people in the developing world have her depth of institutional knowledge and negotiating capacity."
"It really destabilises them and their ability to act as a co-ordinated group. It upsets their strategy and capacity to negotiate," she added.
The group of NGOs suggested that the move followed a visit by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to the Philippines.
According to the Philippine delegation and domestic NGOs, the decision to exclude Ms Muller was taken by the Philippine cabinet and the president herself.
"We can't confirm that this was as a result of pressure or promises, but clearly these things don't happen without this sort of activity," said Ms Lin.
Ms Muller was quickly re-adopted by the Sudanese delegation, allowing her to continue in her role as G77 co-ordinator.
A spokesperson for the European Commission denied that Europe was behind Ms Muller's removal. "We had nothing at all to do with this," said environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich.
Separately, an overlapping group of NGOs sharply attacked Denmark, holder of the presidency of the UN climate conference, of acting in a "biased, manipulative and nontransparent manner."
Some 25 groups, including Action Aid, the World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth criticised as "undemocratic" Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's practice of convening small working groups of countries, which excluded poor nations, before the Copenhagen meeting.
Draft "Copenhagen Accords" circulated before the conference were given only to a small number of governments while others were excluded, the NGOs added.
The groups argue that the texts ignore the demands of developing countries, instead reflecting the position of developed countries on key issues.
Raman Mehta from Action Aid India said: "The global community trusted the Danish government to host a fair and transparent process but they have betrayed that trust."
A Danish official told this website that such criticisms were unwarranted as "it's no secret that there have been ongoing bilateral discussions for some time now."