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Rio+20: Global citizenship in support of respect for human rights

This post is also available in: Spanish

By José Pedro Martins

“We need — with worldwide mobilization — to fight for complete reform of socio-environmental governance, because the current one doesn’t correspond at all to the interests of communities around the globe and of Mother Earth.”

That’s how Ailton Krenak, one of the best known indigenous leaders in Brazil and member of the Forest Peoples Network, summed up the path nongovernmental organizations and social movements must take to continue fighting to protect the environment, given the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20.

Krenak participated in the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice and the Defense of Common Goods, which brought thousands of NGO and social movement representatives from around the world to Rio de Janeiro’s Flamengo Park independent of , but at the same time as, Rio+20.

“They are hijacking important symbolisms for the people, for the benefit of corporate interests,” Krenak said, referring to the term “green economy,” one of the official themes of Rio+20.

The indigenous leader made the statement at the Socio-environmental Arena, the main area for the Brazilian government’s dialogue with civil society at Rio+20.

For Krenak, given the lack of firmness on the part of the United Nations and representatives from developed countries, Brazil should have been more audacious in taking the lead during negotiations at Rio+20.

Instead, what is happening in Brazil is a repeat of the military dictatorship’s actions when it ruled 1964 to 1985, he said, “when major projects in the Amazon were very destructive for indigenous communities and for inhabitants of the forest in general.”


Corporate interests


The growing influence of large corporations on the UN system, consistent with the pursuit of the commodification of nature, was a constant in the criticisms that social movements and NGOs, especially at the People’s Summit, made throughout Rio+20.

“The governmental positions have been become increasingly invaded by narrow corporate interests tied to polluting industries and business sectors seeking to profit from the environment, climate and financial crises,” said Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International.

The organization launched a report on June 19 denouncing the “kidnapping” of the United Nations and Rio+20 by large corporations, citing the cases of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, or SE4ALL, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD, and the Convention on Biological Diversity, “increasingly driven by social actors interested in the financialization of nature and not by the need to conserve biodiversity.”

Indeed, indigenous peoples have been particularly critical of the results of Rio+20. “The United Nations is increasingly losing real presence, and thereby the corporate influence in multilateral organizations and the United Nations system increases,” Krenak said.


Activities and conclusions


The preparation of a World General Strike Day and the mobilization of global citizenship against the militarization of states and territories, the criminalization of social movements and organizations, the violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender people, as well as in favor of the right of peoples to land, both urban and rural, the change of the energy model and the reaffirmation of human rights and the democratization of the media.

These were some of the conclusions from the People’s Summit, which had around 500 events organized by different groups. There were also plenary sessions about three issues: Structural causes and false solutions, Our solutions, and an Agenda for struggles and campaigns. On June 21, the People’s Assembly convened for approval of the final document and guidelines on the next steps to mobilize global citizenship.

“We do not accept palliatives that leave intact the structural causes of social, economic and environmental problems, reproducing and exacerbating the multiple forms of inequality experienced by women as well as social and environmental injustices,” reads the document “The Global Land of Women in the People’s Summit for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20),” issued by the World March of Women.

“We propose the covenant of Rio de Janeiro for we the people in struggle to get back to our places of origin and fight every day against our real enemies,” said the leader of Via Campesina, João Pedro Stédile, on June 21 in the largest demonstration associated with Rio+20, when more than 80,000 people marched in downtown Rio.

Several actions were launched during the march, with criticism of the official course of Rio+20 and reiteration of the need for greater global mobilization against the commodification of nature.