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More Ecology, Less Economy for Rio+20
an article by Fabíola Ortiz, for Tierramérica, reprinted by permission

Hundreds of non-governmental organizations and social movements from around the world hope to counter the failure of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which they consider inevitable, with the success of the alternative People’s Summit.

Indigenous baby and mother in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

click on photo to enlarge

Both events will take place in June in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian city that served as the venue, two decades ago, for the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development. Popularly known as the Earth Summit, the 1992 conference is considered a turning point in the architecture of international environmental law.

Rio+20 is expected to draw around 50,000 people to the city to take part in preparatory meetings and parallel activities during much of June, in addition to some 120 heads of state and government who will meet for the actual summit on Jun. 20-22.

The People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice in Defense of the Commons will be held Jun. 15-23 in Aterro do Flamengo park, near downtown Rio de Janeiro, as an alternative event independent of the official conference, and is expected to draw roughly 10,000 participants.

Representatives of some 20 social, trade union, youth, women’s, indigenous, peasant and Afro-descendant organizations met in Rio during the fourth week of March to coordinate actions, fine-tune their critique of the official Rio+20 agenda, and finish up preparations for the large-scale mobilization in June.

One of the challenges is the inclusion of the rights of native peoples in the concept of sustainable development, said activist Sander Otten, a member of the technical committee of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations (CAOI), which brings together groups from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

“We need to demand the fulfillment of rights so that indigenous peoples are genuinely able to have a say in the projects that are carried out in their own territories,” Otten told Tierramérica.

On Jun. 17 and 18, a global committee of indigenous peoples will discuss two key factors in this regard: the presence and impact of extractive industries in their territories, and the right to free, prior and informed consent established in International Labour Organization Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

Otten acknowledged that some progress has been made in the area of indigenous rights in the last 20 years. However, in the majority of cases, the governments of the Andean countries are promoting the further expansion of extractive activities like mining and oil drilling, as well as large-scale industrial monoculture plantations, he stressed.

Indigenous organizations in the Andes region want to join the discussion on the green economy - one of the central themes of Rio+20 - and propose alternatives based on their own cosmovision. These include community economic management that respects “Mother Earth” and especially the paradigm of “buen vivir” or “living well”, a holistic life philosophy which pursues the goal of material, social and spiritual well-being among all members of a society, but not at the cost of the other members or the environment.

(This article is continued in the discussionboard)


Question(s) related to this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Latest reader comment:

[responding to CPNN article The film 'Demain', a manifesto?

Yes initiatives from the grassroots are important and necessary which will have a direct impact on the present and the future. But there are governments like India which are conscious of over exploitation of the earth’s resources and are taking suitable policy measures and also taking legal action against the exploiters.

We must emphasize public transportation and reduce our dependence on individual cars even though the auto industry will not like this.

Otherwise it is not demain but aujourdhui — the problems are there for us to see.

This report was posted on April 12, 2012.