June 22, 2012
By Raul Burbano
Canadian civil society makes a show of solidarity at Rio+20 partaking in various activities that connect the struggles of workers and students in Canada with those in Brazil and globally. This week miners and members of the United Steelworkers (USW) marched in solidarity with La Via Campesina and other civil society groups in Rio.
The evening march which started at the main pavilion or Cúpula dos Povos made its way into downtown Rio with a final stop at the head office of Vale. There, protestors watched as images depicting scenes of environmental devastation caused by its operations were projected onto the side of the building. As the sun started to set speakers from various countries took turns giving speeches in solidarity with those impacted by Valle operations globally.
One such speech was given by a miner representing the United Steelworkers. Perched high atop a truck he stated, “I work for Vale”…”I do this to provide for my family and children”. The look on many people’s faces in the crowd below was one of perplexity. Then with his fist raised in the air he bellowed into the microphone “your struggle is my struggle and my struggle is yours”. As the translator repeated his words in Portuguese it elicited immediate cheers and claps from the crowd below as the atmosphere filled with a sense of fraternity and shared sense of struggle that cut across borders but also working class. This was evident by all the handshakes and pats on the back the Steelworker received by fellow protestors when he rejoined the crowd below.
June 21, 2012
By Raul Burbano
It was early morning and picturesque Copacabana beach was in the background as a small crowd started to gather in front of the Golden Tulip Hotel. The group made up mostly of young Québécois gathered there to greet Premier of Quebec Jean Charest, who is attending the official Rio+20 events and staying at that hotel.
The protestors with white cloths covering their mouths marked with an x to symbolize being silenced at home stood quietly in front of the hotel. Many, holding signs calling for an end to Plan Nord, condemning bill 78 and demanding real dialogue and participation. As the protest started to get louder, several tourists and locals approached the marchers and began speaking directly to them. After a brief dialogue they nodded their heads seemingly in approval leading one passerby to say “stay strong” as she walked away.
As the rain started to come down it seemed that the protest might come to end but all that changed when a significant and very boisterous contingency of young Brazilians, drums in hand, marched straight into the crowd joining the Québécois protestors. It was The National Assembly of Students (ANEL) from Brazil who had come to be in solidarity with the Quebec students. This clearly changed the dynamics of the protest and reenergizing everyone; both groups united, jumped up and down calling on Charest to listen to them.
A representative of CLASSE spoke to the crowed and so did Clara Saraiva, a student at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), and a member of the National Executive body of the Free National Assembly of Students (ANEL). “We want give all the solidarity for the students in Quebec and the population that are defending their rights defending against oppression”. She went on to explain that Brazilian students are also on strike because they don’t agree with the current education polices that seek to dismantle the public university system in Brazil by continued funding cuts. This is leading to a poorer quality of education and making it less accessible. She closed off by saying that the Quebec student strike is an example that gives them strength and hope to continue their fight.
Connecting people and linking north-south struggles is a key component for meaningful and participatory dialogue that will lead to collective solutions to the global issues facing the environment and humanity. Linking the struggles of workers, women, students and communities is what the people’s summit is all about
June 20 2012
By Raul Burbano
With the People’s summit well under way here in Rio, the environment is one of negotiations, dialogue and festivities. Flamengo Park, in the southern part of Rio de Janeiro is where the main pavilion has been set up. Flanked by beautiful beaches and the Baía de Guanabara one can see the Sugarloaf Mountain that rising out of the Atlantic.
The multitude of people can be seen walking along Flemengo Park, attending meetings, watching videos, and participating in debates. Some reports have put the numbers as high as 30,000 delegates from around the world attending the meetings and events with over 600 scheduled events planned during the summit. Also about 200 organizations and social movements from around the world are represented including NGO’s, labour, campesino, indigenous peoples, women, black people, environmentalists and ecumenical to mention a few.
The program has debates, meetings, concerts, cultural events and demonstrations sprinkled through the whole week all of them under the slogan “At Rio+20 for Social and Environmental Justice”. A key focus is to raise new paradigms and alternatives built by people for the people using a simple methodology. Identify the structural problems with the current system and its false solutions. Then propose alternatives to the current system as opposed to just solutions to fixing the problems, and then finally launch campaigns and initiatives that will lead to those alternatives locally and on a global scale. As one presenter from South Africa said, “we want sustainable livelihood not sustainable development”
Some activities for the week:
15- 16 June: Activities organized by local social movements, which are in constant struggle and resistance to the impacts of mega projects. Free spaces are set up where organizations and global civil society movements will be able to exhibit experiences and projects that demonstrate how a sustainable and fraternal society is possible.
17 June: Opening march of the People’s Summit.
18-19 June: Self-organized activities and the People’s Permanent Assembly.
20 June: International Day of Mobilization. A major demonstration in Rio de Janeiro and in several cities of Brazil and around the world to express the peoples’ struggle against the commodification of nature and in defense of the nature.
21- 22 June: Self-organized activities and the People’s Permanent Assembly report back
June 15, 2012
By Raul Burbano
Picturesque Rio de Janeiro is playing host to the Rio+20 United Nations conferences on sustainable development taking place June 20th to 22nd. Representatives from more than 180 nations will gather to discuss the issues of sprawling megacities to unemployment. The conference will focus on two themes: the so-called “green economy; and global governance. Rio+20 officially marks the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development that took place at the first Earth Summit in Rio, in 1992. Since then, world leaders have done little to address the social and environmental crisis the planet is facing. The risk of us not reaching significant accords that indeed change things is real," according to Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program. This lack of confidence in the international institutions and process has led civil society to take action.
In parallel to the official UN conference, the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice is taking place between the 15th and the 23rd of June. The preparatory meeting to this was the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre from January 24th to 28th, 2012, where civil society, NGO’s and social movements focused on key thematic areas and worked on issues such as water as a human right, the people’s green economy, free media, and sustainable cities.
The People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice will provide a forum for international organizations and social movements to discuss the issues arising from Rio+20. It’s also an important juncture in the global sphere of popular organizing and democracy, a space free of corporations where people from all walks of life will come together to build alliances, share ideas and demonstrate the political strength of global organized communities. Many self-organized events will take place allowing for meaningful dialogue across diverse sectors; with a goal to challenge the status quo and the models of capitalist production and consumption. Many of these events are have clear anti-capitalist, anti-classist, anti-racist, anti-patriarchal and anti-homophobic political framework.
”Come reinvent the world” is our call and our invitation for the participation of the organizations and social movements in Brazil and in the world.
Anti-mining activist denied entry into Brazil
Controversy has marred the start of the official conference when an anti-mining activist was denied entry into Brazil. The journalist Jeremias Vunjanhe, a member of integrante de Justicia Ambiental – Amigos de la Tierra Mozambique was turned back at the airport. According to reports he was going to denounce the negative impacts of the Brazilian mining company Valle in his country at the III International encounter of those affected by company. Vale is an official sponsor of the official UN conference and for many at the People’s Summit this incident is a clear example of the overreaching power of corporations.