Rio+20 : The UN and La Via Campesina debate green economy

(Rio de Janeiro, June 16) A debate was held between representatives of Via Campesina and other civil society organizations with the president of UNEP, United Nations Program for Environment, Achim Steiner on the green economy, the UNs proposals and its influence on the everyday life of the worlds population.

Larissa Parker, attorney for the organization Terra de Direitos and member of the group Belém Charter (CArta de BeLEM) began the discussion by asking the president of UNEP abouT tangible examples from around the world in which the implementation of the green economy has been harmful to the environment and people. Financialization and commodification of the environment have turned nature into an asset, a marketable product and subject to cumulative action. Therefore the question that came up was how can we ensure environmental conservation within the green economy paradigm when scarcity will increase its market value?

Parker also questioned the engIneering of new technologies proposed by the UN as a way to continue the colonilist discourse of the eradication of poverty without mentioning the distribution of wealth and land. moreover, this model proposed by the UN is a new facade of the much touted green revolution, which had promised to end hunger with the technology of new pesticide-resistant seeds. However, what we saw was the continuity of hunger, rising indebtedness of those peasant families that began to buy these product, the poisoning of food by chemicals and even suicides of peasants, especially in india, disillusioned with this form of production. “The alternatives are emerging, they are visible. It is necessary that the UN looks towards the people and communities that are present here today and the experiences of the several communities that are represented here, “she said.

Meanwhile, Edwin Vasquez, representative of COICA, an indigenous organization in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, described to the UN representative what a real green economy means for them. A green economy with clean characteristics as the United Nations has tried to refer to it, would mean their territories and what they produce in them and not coal or oil companies or mining. “For us, indigenous and landless, the green economy is not the color of money, it is the color of our Amazon”, he added.

Juan Herrera, of La Via Campesina, stressed the importance of the peoples struggle against the proposed model that will mainly to benefit the rich countries and capitalism. According to him, the Via Campesina has been fighting climate change, caused by the development model favouring capital. it has also been fighting hunger, which is also the result of a focus on market gains as well as the non-distribution of land and wealth. All this work of La Via Campesina is contrary to the solutions proposed by capitalism, which are always based on the aim that capital should be able to grow more. Herrera took advantage of the opportunity to strengthen the process of struggle of Via Campesina, “la Via Campesina will continue in the streets, fighting for all the people of the world. The UN proposes the mass use of GMOs and chemical pesticides, while we strive for safe healthy food for our people, and everyones access to it. “

The UN’s Interpretation of the Green Economy

According to Steiner, there are many different interpretations of the green economy and different ways to grapple with it. He said he did not disagree with the reviews and analyzes made so far on the matter and agreed that the UN is also frustrated by the slow progress after the Eco92 conference. He also said that economic thinking dominates all nations, maybe not some, but the main perspective of most nations is economic. He said the UNEP report would criticise the markets which have failed to implement sustainable development which was defined as a priority in the Eco92.

About new technologies, Steiner said that his “vision is to enable people to see sustainable development as something other than what has been seen so far. Renewable energy technology and GMOs are good tools, but were appropriated by large multinationals. The road has became top down. Economies can not be totally controlled. They must coexist and can not be dominated either by the market or by governments. when we speak of economies, we are talking about future models and not of the past. “

Pat Mooney from the ETC Group said that governments are in the wrong place. He said that it is here in the peoples summit, where the economy becomes a reality, this is where the important discussions are taking place.

The financial crisis that has afected much of the world was caused by financial systems. The climate crisis was caused by technological developments that destroyed the environment. But, according to Mooney, they want to join these two crises and find a market based solution when it was the market that led to the crisis in the first place. “How will you create a green economy to create new technologies to resolve what the other economy has already destroyed?. These technologies are not green and do not work for us. And when I say this I don’t mean that are not operational, but rather that they don’t serve us,”. He also emphasized that “we can not let those who destroyed the financial system to destroy the environment.”

The representative of CUT, Arthur Hernrique said we can not accept a model that commodifies the commons. “We need to change the global model of production and consumption. The UN itself has previously acknowledged that the model did not work. Environmental and social concerns became relegated to the margins of global debates.” A green job, said the leader is also decent work, it’s not just combatting slave or child labor. Finally he said that “we dont just want our voices to be heard, but rather we want to be able to discuss with everyone the way forward towards sustainable development.”

Pablo Solon, Focus on the Global South, questioned Steiner asking why he wasn’t being honest by not really acknowledging the interests of capital in the green economy. He said the green economy is for rich countries to continue their development model, through compensatory policies such as REDD and carbon credit. He concluded by making a critique of the economic model favored by rich countries, “the economic model can not be based on the indiscriminate exploitation of nature. We do not need not keep growing forever, but rather we need to redistribute wealth and resources. That is something that the green economy does not mention. “

Cristiane Passos

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