Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Civil society announces the People’s Summit

By Lívia Duarte on 08.07.2011

Last week, representatives of 150 organizations, entities and social movements from various countries announced the next year's realization of the Peoples' Summit. The event will be parallel to the United Nation's Conference for Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. To get started with the event's organization, an international seminar took place from June 30th to July 1st. One day later, on July 2nd, a Mobilization Plenary, open to the city's social movements that are starting to articulate themselves to take part also in the Peoples' Summit (this name isn't yet official).

Fátima Mello, from the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (Rebrip) and FASE, announced that the primary objective of the Peoples' Summit must be asking governments to give political power to the official conference: "There won't be a Rio+40. Our planet won't take it. We are tired of so many conferences under UN's and other multilateral institutions system with very low implementation power who establish compromises that don't respond to the urgency that the crisis requires. We also want to mobilize public opinion on the debate for a new economic, society and development model". She and other representatives of the Civil Society Facilitating Committee for Rio+20 spoke in a press conference. There were also members of networks, entities and social movements from other countries who went to Rio to take part on the construction of the Summit.

They believe that among the most important debates of the Summit is the need of restoring the idea of humanities' common goods, which are incompatible with the current commodification of life and nature. "We need to discuss the idea that water, earth, forests, biodiversity, as well as public services such as education and health, cannot be under market control only for profit. Society must be able to have access to all of these as public and universal goods, as main condition for social and environmental justice in the world", commented Fátima.

Another thematic axis that will guide the Summit is the presentation of concrete experiences across the world exemplifying another economy and another way to organize society. Examples are solidary economy - which proposes shorter and fairer circuits between production and consumption-, and agroecology – which uses food production based on small properties, made in a sustainable way and without the use of chemicals, such as pesticide.

Pointing contradictions

As Rio prepares to host United Nation's Conference for Sustainable Development, it goes through an intense process of commodification, due also to the realization of mega sportive events - namely the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. This process has been lacking transparency and dialogue with society, as well as respect for human rights such as the right to a home. The People's Summit shall approach this contradiction that affects the city.

Marcelo Durão, from Via Campesina, pointed out that the logic of the events has been to appropriate territories – not only in Rio, but in all capital cities that will host the World Cup. The same happened in other countries that have hosted these events. Brian Ashley, from the Mobilization Organizing Committee for COP 17, the Climate Conference that will take place in Durban, South Africa, remembered the 2010 World Cup in his country. "We have various social problems, such as an unemployment rate of 40% and serious problems with the health and education systems for which the government says there are no available resources. For the World Cup, however, U$ 40 billion were used in the construction of stadiums, airports and roads that now are only used by the elite or aren't used at all. There was massive resources transference to Fifa", he commented. Pointing to what he believes to be the social movements' mission in Rio+20: "We need to reveal another world in which the recourses don't obey private interests, but are rather used to protect nature and society".

And this isn't the only contradiction in the Brazilian government. Changes that are harmful to the environment and the peoples, proposed by the new Forest Code, haven't been forgotten. There is also the processing of a bill that would allow the use of seeds known as "terminator". These seeds don't reproduce and are the market's solution for contaminations. However, they are a blow to biodiversity and to farmer's knowledge and rights, who for thousands of years have reproduced their own seeds. There is an international moratorium against the terminator seeds and a change in Brazil's position might mean a cascade effect all over the world.

The organizers guarantee that they intend to build a process for the Peoples' Summit with direct connection with real struggles, no matter if they are resistance against policies imposed by G20, the continuation of World Social Forum's process or the debate about national agendas. As far as Brazil is concerned, Fátima asserted that the struggle against changes in the Forest Code, approved by the Congress, is structuring to the building process of the Peoples' Summit. Marcelo Durão pondered that in case the changes in the Forest Code are confirmed, they will represent one of the biggest losses of biodiversity in the world – and a great victory to agribusiness, which will enter the Amazon and expand livestock and monocultures such as soy.

In his opinion, for the barring of changes, we need people on the streets, following the example of demonstrations in Curitiba during the UN's Conferences about Biodiversity which guaranteed the moratorium against the terminator seeds. "The terminator seeds are yet another false solution presented by the market. We, from Via Campesina, don't believe in 'green economy'. The market cannot offer true solutions to the historical problems generated by the capitalist society. We believe that the solution isn't in the market, but rather in the experiences of the peoples, based on solidarity", asserted Durão.

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