Friends of the Earth in Rio
On June 19, Friends of the Earth (FoE) released a report critiquing the corporate capture of the United Nations. Corporate capture means that governments are not doing their job and that they have become advocates for the corporate agenda. Popular movements have risen to the occasion in a re-energized drive to democratize the political process and take back control over our lives and nature.
This new energy was evident from the beginning of the popular forum. Unity and integrated coherence are the bywords. Unlike the highly fragmented, dispersed World Social Forums and the UN process itself, the People’s Forum discussions were consolidated into five broad and interconnected dimensions, each with its own plenary and tent. These include energy and extractive industries, food sovereignty and decommodification of nature. The focus at the plenaries was first, to come to a consensus on structural roots of the sustainability crises and false solutions; second, to articulate peoples’ solutions; and third, implementation of solutions. After considerable popular input, discussions of these five dimensions are being integrated into one declaration to be considered by a Peoples’ Assembly at the end of the Summit.
The morning of June 18, FoE delegates joined the World March of Women’s mobilization Against the Commodification of Life and Our Common Heritage. Downtown Rio was brought to a standstill by a multitude of women including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer (LGBTQ) folks, unionists, farmers, students, Indigenous women, women of faith, people from all walks of life in varying degrees of dress and undress with its multiple meanings. It was exhilarating to be engulfed by a mass of jubilating, dancing, singing, chanting feminists and their allies amongst men. While confronting the police we shouted “where are our disappeared?”
Today (June 19) we went to the Rio Centre where the official government meetings take place. There was a notable lunch time demonstration by at least 200 women from all over the world. The women formed concentric circles facing outwards. They waved purple scarves and chanted slogans in many languages affirming women’s power including “women’s rights are human rights,” “women’s rights not corporate rights,” “women and the planet are not for sale” and “shame on them.” Their signs condemned our ‘do nothing’ governments. The signs said “against greed economy,” “Reproductive Rights!,” “women’s rights now,” “women defending sexual and reproductive health and rights,” “justice, gender and ecology,” “women as the voice for the right to a healthy environment.”
The demonstrations and convergences at the Peoples’ Forum affirmed the commonalities of our struggles globally. We also made solidarity visits to three communities devastated and condemned to death by the ‘development’ of the world’s second largest mining corporation, Vale, and Petrobras, a state within the Brazilian state. The “Rio+Toxic” tours revealed how these global firms have dispossessed self-sufficient, autonomous fishing peoples and farmers of their homes, land, access to the sea and subsistence. Their rich cultures can’t be passed on to their children because the people have been forced into wage slavery. One father with tears in his eyes decried the degradation of many young women reduced to prostitution in the wake of Thyssen-Krupp-Vale’s iron ore smelter.
This evening the communities and workers affected by Vale gathered from all over the world to evaluate and extend coordinated resistance. The Vale-affected communities in Rio and the international delegates who had visited them met this morning to build solidarity and solutions prior to a public demonstration. They then marched from Flamingo beach to Vale’s global head office. With this vocal mobilization countering the impotence of captured governance, we can only expect an escalation of people’s confident assertions of alternatives in the build up to the concluding People’s Assembly.
Terisa Turner and Terran Giacomini
Terisa Turner and Terran Giacomini are representing Friends of the Earth Canada at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.