When you hear about Rio

(Rio de Janeiro, Saturday June 16th, 2012)

It’s because social movements and organizations have convened in the Peoples Summit for Social and Environmental Justice, which began June 15th with a platform of struggle. Until the 23rd of the month, Aterro de Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the center of convergence against green capitalism and the mercantilization of life. The Articulation of Social Movements towards ALBA unites this process of resistance, debate and mobilization.

The People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice began June 15th. Flamengo Park, in the center of Rio de Janeiro, has been gradually filling up with representatives of organizations and popular movements, environmentalists and social activists who propose alternatives to the mercantilization of life, a process that is taking hold within the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in the discussions around the green economy. Two decades after Eco92 – during which environmental conflicts have intensified and deepened the consequences of the systemic crisis of capitalism – the protagonists of a long process of resistance are coming together to advance common proposals that they have been building against the new predatory and unequal strategies being proposed.

The precursor to this peoples moment was June 5th, World Environment Day, when a global day of action was able to unite the struggles of peasant and indigenous movements, people affected by dams, people dispossessed by rural and urban megaprojects and the resistance against large scale mining, among other causes. This day bore witness to the capacity of these struggles to mobilize and accumulate force towards a structural change, a new paradigm, which becomes visible through the convergence of these popular sectors.

In Latin America, the region where both of these summits are taking place, there have been constant marches against the privatization of the commons, which is the backbone of economic growth and poorly identified today with “development”. These voices began to get stronger in the nineties, when the neoliberal agenda began spreading and being implemented around the world. The agroexport model took hold and corporations started entering and dominating new territories through militarization and repression, which has generated more dependency and has furthered colonization throughout the continent.

The meetings organized by international institutions have not been able to change this tendency, and in fact they have shown a serious lack of commitment to the agreements of these broad official summits. One example is the Agenda 21, final document of Eco92, but also the Copenhagen, Cancun and most recently Durban conferences, all of which have failed to take steps to grant the requests of the people. The Rio+20 summit outlines the a framework that would give the green light to provide “environmental services” as a means to achieve “clean development” and to continue covering up other ancestral and traditional ways of life.

In this sense, the People’s Summit has become very important for social struggles. Networks, movements and organizations, including Jubilee South, the World March of Women, Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth, the articulation of social movements to the ALBA and others, many from campaigns against neoliberal policies and free trade agreements, have strategically united in order to advance the alternatives that come from below, for example, from our community spaces, from spaces to revive common memories and from repeated popular occupations.

Social movements look at the current situation through the lens of political ecology, and they intend to leave certain discussion spaces, such as the World Social Forum. They are proposing three principal lines of work: denouncing the structural causes of the multiple crises, false solutions and new forms of capital accumulation; people’s solutions and new paradigms, and a joint agenda for mobilization will be the focus of discussions, which begin in plenary sessions and will come together in the people’s assemblies to agree on a position which would give continuity to this process of struggle. Furthermore, this Summit will emphasize the importance of mobilizations. June 20th is scheduled as a day of global action.

Leaders of the coalition of social movements to the ALBA consider this people’s meeting as very significant; facing the dangers of corporate concentration, new paths emerge for continental integration through alternatives like food sovereignty, agro self-management and cooperatives, all of which represent forms of economic solidarity and good living based on the principle of cooperation. As Manuel Bertoldi of the Operational Secretariat of the coalition said, the Summit “is a moment to mobilize to show that we are organized from below, resisting and creating alternatives.”

Along with Via Campesina, the coalition of social movements to the ALBA has called for an act of solidarity on June 18th with the people and movements from Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti and Cuba to reaffirm the necessary transformations that drive the popular sectors in Americas.