Rio+20 UN Conference a Failure, People’s Summit a Step Forward
June 15-23, 2012: GGJ brought a delegation of 16 people to Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, the Rio+20 Cúpula dos Povos (People’s Summit), and other social movement activities.
The Rio+20 UN conference is being called at best a stalemate, if not a complete failure. Opposition to the “Greed Economy” was loud and clear, from grassroots social movements voices as well as world leaders and academics. President of Bolivia Evo Morales said “the ‘green economy’ promoted by the UN Rio+20 summit is ‘a new colonialism’ which rich nations want to impose on developing countries,” (click here for full article) and Venezuelan Professor Edgardo Lander of the Transnational Institute declared the corporate-based Green Economy stillborn—dead before it began.
Resistance Inside the UN Conference
Resistance around the site of the UN conference was powerful. Over 500 Indigenous Peoples from Brazil and throughout the world gathered at the Kari Oca II Earth Summit and ratified a Declaration demanding respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the dignity of Mother Earth and condemning the Green Economy as the privatization of Life. Read the Kari Oca II Declaration here
11 year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney of Indigenous Environmental Network took action with other young leaders from around the world in staging a “People’s Assembly” inside the United Nations before deciding to collectively walk-out and deposit their badges. Ta’Kaiya made international news for her poignant speech and song challenging world leaders to stop destroying the earth, and for ripping up the UN draft text. Watch the video of Ta’Kaiya here
GGJ joined La Via Campesina and other social movements in a solidarity march through the Vila Autódromo, a community fighting displacement next door to the site of the Rio+20 UN conference. Click here to check out a slideshow from the march and read the community’s statement.
Outside Strategy: The People’s Summit and Beyond
The People’s Summit had more success in bringing together social movements from across Brazil and around the world through an extensive consultation process of Plenaries (or tracks) and People’s Assemblies to define a common platform for how to move forward. GGJ played a key organizing role in the People’s Summit, leading the facilitation and documentation of the “Rights for Social and Environmental Justice” track during the Plenary and Assembly popular consultation processes of the summit.
The June 20 Day of Action in Defense of the Commons and Against the Commodification of Life brought out the largest mobilization in Rio de Janeiro’s history, with estimates ranging from 50,000-80,000 people. Check out photos from the march
Saki Hall of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reported on Free Speech Radio News some of the real green solutions that groups are working toward. Listen to the 5 minute report here
The People’s Assemblies were opened and closed with “mysticas”—cultural performances reflecting people’s struggles. Watch video of the opening to the People’s Assembly on Real Solutions led by La Vía Campesina, and a video of Michael Leon Guerrero (Outgoing GGJ National Coordinator) and Nathanette Mayo (Black Workers For Justice) singing Get Up, Stand Up.
Nile Malloy of Communities for a Better Environment shares reflections and a video on a talk by Vandana Shiva; Jorge Glackman of Activist San Diego shares a report from one of the “Toxic Tours” that GGJ delegates were able to attend to get to know local communities in the Rio de Janeiro area; and Ife Kilimanjaro of East Michigan Environmental Action Council reflects on a workshop by the World March of Women on Feminism, Food and Agroecology.
The Robin Hood Tax launched on June 19th with actions across the US, and also in Rio de Janeiro at the People’s Summit. A leader of the PT, the Brazilian Workers Party, showed up to the morning workshop wearing a homemade Robin Hood hat and announcing that he was on his way to bring it up on the Senate floor, inviting anyone who wanted to join him to come along. Learn more about the Robin Hood Tax campaign here.
What’s Next after Rio+20?
While we can claim victory in the sense that this Green Capitalist model that the UN summit hoped to launch seems to have lost steam before taking off, we still have a long way to go toward actually implementing strategies for a real Green Economy that keeps the green in the grassroots and implements solutions to the economic and ecological crises that cool the planet and put our communities to work.
Pablo Solon posed the question of what comes next throughout the People’s Summit, convening a workshop featuring leaders from many of the social movement alliances in leadership of the process. GGJ National Coordinator Cindy Wiesner joined the panel, calling on the movement to have a more comprehensive analysis of the issues we face and of how to bring them together. Read more about the workshop here
“There are two things that will kill the planet,” said Solon in a meeting with the GGJ delegation. “The financial sector, and climate change.” Angela Adrar of Rural Coalition interviewed Pablo Solon on what he sees as a next step in this process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CD4IzKAmIQ