“The planet will not tolerate a Rio + 40 Conference”

Foto:Sitio de la Cumbre de los

Source: Lívia Duarte’s report for the World Social Forum

Representatives of 150 social organizations and movements from various countries announced in Rio that the Peoples’ Summit will be held in parallel to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20), which will take place next year from June 4-6. 

“There will not be a Rio + 40 Conference. Our planet will not take it. We are tired of so many conferences under the UN system and other multilateral institutions, with very low implementation power, which set commitments that fail to conform to the urgency of the crisis striking the planet. We also want to mobilize public opinion on the debate for another model”, said Fatima Mello, of the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (REBRIP).

At a press conference following a plenary meeting on July 2, Mello – together with other civil society representatives – informed that the primary objective of the Peoples’ Summit (the name is provisional) is to demand that governments give political power to the official conference.

The Peoples’ Summit will have among its main goals to restore the notion that there are common goods of humanity – a notion that is not compatible with the current commodification of life and nature.

“We have to discuss this idea: water, land, forests, biodiversity and also public services such as education and health care cannot be left in the hands of for-profit markets. Society must have access to all of these as public and universal goods, as a main condition for social and environmental justice in the world”, she pointed out.

Another focal point that shall guide the summit is the presentation of experiences that apply other visions of the economy and social organization. Examples are the solidarity economy, which offers shorter and fairer circuits between production and consumption, and agroecology, which aims at forms of food production based on small farm properties in a sustainable way and without the use of chemicals, such as pesticides.  

Pointing out contradictions

As Rio prepares to host the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, it undergoes a strong commodification process linked – among other factors – to the organization of sport mega-events, particularly the 2014 FIFA World Cup (football) and the Olympic Games in 2016. 

This process has been marked by the lack of transparency and dialogue with civil society, as well as by the violation of rights, such as the right to decent housing. The Peoples’ Summit shall address this contradiction.  

Marcelo Durão, of the farmers’ union Via Campesina, pointed out that the logic of the events has been to appropriate territories.

And this would not be the only contradiction of the Brazilian Government with respect to the Rio + 20 Conference. Changes that are harmful to the environment and peoples can be noticed, such as those proposed by Brazil’s new Forest Code and a bill that allows the use of seeds known as “terminator” seeds, which do not reproduce and are promoted by the market as a solution to contamination, notwithstanding the fact that activists consider them as a serious blow against biodiversity and the ancestral knowledge and rights of farmers, who for thousands of years have been producing their own seeds.   

Organizers intend to connect the Peoples’ Summit with real struggles, such as the process of the World Social Forum and the resistance to policies imposed by the G-20.