Monday, July 2, 2012

Escaping Rio Centro…

On Monday the 18th Angela and I escaped from the temporarily set up walls of Rio Centro to the tents of the Peoples Summit in Flamenco. The People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice is taking place parallel to Rio+20 conference from the 15th to the 23rd. The summit was sparked by the letdown of the inaction to overcome social and environmental injustice worldwide, further more the theme of the green economy at the Rio+20 earth summit has lead to disappointed expectations of the conference.

The people’s summit, with its overpowering presence of civil society, was quite the opposite of Rio Centro. The first thing Angela and I witnessed was a street protest lead by La Via Campesina, an international movement, which mobilizes millions of peasants, and other similar organizations.

In the afternoon I attended a plenary session on the commons. In contrast to the bureaucracy at Rio Center, anyone could participate and get their message across in a manner that was effective and constructive. This particular event was to reflect on the content and synthesis on points from debates that were carried out on major themes of unifying agreements. The themes included: Rights for Social and Environmental Justice, Defense of Common Goods Against Commodification, Food Sovereignty, Energy and Extractive Industries and Work: for Another Economy and New Paradigms for Society. Quite a range of themes to pick from! 

Overall it was an inspiring day that really emphasized the important role of civil society to push global leaders to bring about the changes that are essential for the well being of humanity and the planet.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The People's Summit

A few days ago, on a slow day of negotiations, Angela and I ventured to the People's Summit on the side of town. The People's Summit is an event being held in parallel and in resistance to the main Rio+20 conference, with a focus on social and environmental justice. Check out our video and Ahdi's more in depth description to follow to get a taste of this lively grassroots summit!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kerry calls on US to act at Rio+20

Two days ago, on the eve of the conference, Massachusetts's own Senator John Kerry addressed the President expressing his dismay with the "strange and dangerous place" we are in the international environmental arena. He compares our current stagnant political situation and lack of political will to the action and commitment of President George Bush Sr. in the original Rio Conference on Sustainable Development in 1992. Quoting Thomas Paine, in an extremely apt description of our current national attitute, he says that "It is an affront to treat falsehood with complacence." Watch his compelling plea for action below:

This evening marks the closing session of conference. Will Kerry's words have any influence on the US's position on sustainable development and refusal to act? We can only hope.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The People's Red Line

This morning there was a protest by the courtyard of Riocentro. Members of civil society including youth, women, trade unions, indigenous people, scientific community and faith groups formed a "human red line*" of essential values for the earth and humanity. They were expressing their frustration with the text as it stands and claiming that it was “crossing their red line”.

*A red line is term used by negotiators when they are unwilling to compromise on an issue. 

Here is the message of the protestors:

“The future that is being negotiated for us and for the planet is not the future that we REALLY want. The draft outcome’s lack of ambition and failure to address the people’s most basic demands is unacceptable.

Our goal as members of civil society, is to draw our own peoples’ ‘red line.’ The peoples’ redline will echo the real-life red lines of communities outside the conference centre: those who are calling for a life of dignity but are being ignored.

We are calling on governments to make their decisions based on protecting and implementing  the following basic principles for life: Justice, Rights, Equity and the Earth’s integrity.

We are telling governments that if they cross this bottom line, we will regard Rio+20 as failure. We want our voices heard and well represented!

We will come together as active citizens, regardless of our ethnicity, gender, sexuality, affiliation, title, status or profession.

We will call in concert with the voices of the People Summit and they are calling-back by drawing their own red lines in the people's space on the same day.”

To read the full press release check out

Here is a short video of the protest with Nick Meynen, from ANPED Northern Alliance for Sustainability, giving a short description of the protest. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Power to the People

Last night was the first big protest on-site: the proposal for an "Ombudsperson for Future Generations", a primary focus of the Youth Major Group, was removed from the text of the outcome document. This is a position that the governments of Hungary, New Zealand and Israel already have on a national level. According to the Youth Major Group:

  1. 1.     Appointing an Ombudsperson of Future Generations brings the SD agenda straight to the heart of governments and policy-making and intra-governmental expertise. He or she engages directly in the policy-making process and assesses the long-term effects of policies from an integrated perspective (example: Commissioner for Future Generations in Israel)
  2. 2.     Only an independent body without the requirement to be re-elected by current voters can fully focus on the long-term analysis and represent it without any hesitation. Working as a mediator between government departments and stakeholders, he or she also improves knowledge and expertise in integrated policy-making (example: PCE in New Zealand)
  3. 3.     With the mandate to veto policies ignoring agreed sustainable development goals and to bring them to Court in case of non-dispersal of the perceived violations, the shadow of power has proven to provide the long-loud-legal signals that even business calls for (example: Ombudsman for Future Generations in Hungary).
  4. 4.     With the mandate to be responsive to citizens and engaging with their empirical observations, Ombudspersons increase trust in policy implementation and government accountability. In addition, new trends in the population and civil society solutions are easily transmitted to the core of policy-making.

The proposal had been in the text since January and had significant backing. At this stage in the negotiations the host country starts to play a huge role, and the appointed Co-Chairs of the conference are replaced by Brazilian government officials. They now facilitate all negotiations and are responsible for redrafting all text, taking the edits of delegates into account. 

In response to this deletion in the most recent redrafted text, the Youth registered a protest right outside of the negotiation room, (pretty neat that you can register a protest,) and stood in a line with duct tape over their mouths, staring silently at the delegates as they walked by. One participant had a sign reading 'Please, don't take away our voice'. One participant looked as youth as 6. It was powerful, and extremely uncomfortable:

Here's an explanation from Aashish, a member of the youth delegation, who took a quick break from the duct-tape statement:

This morning, the Women's Major Group expressed it's shock that language on sexual and reproductive health as an essential element of sustainable development had been eliminated

The protest included the chants "women's rights, not corporate rights" and "our bodies aren't up for trade". Thanks for this great footage, Yiting!