Rio+20 and the Green Economy: the need for a new paradigm Rio+20 and the Green Economy: the need for a new paradigm


The People’s Dialogue invites your participation in an intercontinental seminar to be held in Johannesburg (5 –7 May 2012) on the green economy in preparation for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It takes forward discussions we have had as the People’s Dialogue in the context of the multi-dimensional crisis of civilisation. Specifically the seminar will focus on the need to develop alternative paradigms and development strategies capable of ensuring a decent life for all while guaranteeing the integrity of the planet.


The depth of the crisis and the increasing threat to life requires not just the framing of these alternatives but the development of advocacy strategies to promote these alternatives. The Rio + 20 UN Summit where the future of humanity and the planet will be debated and the parallel civil society People’s Summit will provide critical opportunities for coming to terms with the depth and severity of the ecological, economic and social crises we face as well as the different alternatives that need to be mobilised around.


The tortured and tiring outcomes of COP 17 and other recent global Summits that promised much yet delivered little should caution anyone that hopes that the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit, the so-called Rio + 20Summit will provide real solutions to our planetary crisis. The fact that the global elite have only allocated 2 and half days of discussions to the official Summit suggests there is nothing like the expectations that accompanied the initial ’92 Earth Summit. Almost twenty years on, hundreds of Summits and meetings later and thousands of pages of resolutions, declarations and protocols, the situation is much worse. The issues of unsustainability in respect of global warming, eco-system degradation biodiversity, ocean acidification, inequality, food insecurity are becoming dire.


One of the main issues for discussion at Rio+20 is the green economy. The real danger for civil society is that just as the concept sustainable development, the green economy proposals are extremely seductive while providing a cover for continued neoliberal policies.


The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the lead agency preparing the Rio Summit is pushing for nature to be precisely measured and valued, according to the ‘services’ it provides (cleaning water, capturing carbon and so on). This way nature’s services can be costed, offset and traded on markets, via credits, similar to carbon trading. Giving nature a monetary value or putting a price tag on it, is the best way to protect it, UNEP argues.


The approach has been heavily criticised by social movements and other civil society organisations as it would mean assigning private property rights to nature, commodifying and privatising nature. Leaving nature to the market would undermine the opportunities of communities and states to protect the commons. The proposed seminar would need to engage with this approach, especially in light of the carbon trading debacle.


As the People’s Dialogue bringing together popular organisations from Southern East and West Africa and Latin America we see Rio + 20 as an opportunity to deepen our critique, extend our common analysis as well as consolidating our exchanges on alternative paradigms based on a cross-sectional (feminist, indigenous, faith-based, labour, peasant, NGOs, etc.) cross-continental dialogue. Important and relevant people’s alternative processes and campaigns such as the Rural Women’s Assembly, the Million Climate Jobs and many others will be promoted in the seminar as concrete steps towards building alternative paradigms and strategies. In this way we will contribute to strengthening and building greater unity of the various platforms movements linked to the People’s Dialogue are already involved in. Here lies the greatest possibility for outreaching and advancing popular demands, struggles and alternatives.


A range of powerful social movements in Brazil, Latin America and across the world have come together to prepare a parallel People’s Summit to the UN’s Rio + 20 Summit. It is critical that African social movements and civil society are mobilised to intervene in these discussions at their country level, regionally and globally to ensure that the specificities of the multi-dimensional crises of Africa are integrated into global civil society’s platforms.


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