HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsFrom Durban back to Rio+20: What about our agenda?

From Durban back to Rio+20: What about our agenda?


It is generally agreed that as expected, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 17 in Durban failed to take any significant decisions in terms of combating the climate crisis.

Maybe in 2020 a new binding agreement will be signed. Yes, 2020? According to Climate Justice Now, this constitutes a crime against humanity.

It seems as if those governments who are the most responsible for the climate crisis have given up any consideration for the people who have become victims of the crisis, those who are affected or seriously threatened by climate change, especially poor women in Africa and other developing countries.

But, we know and have seen how those developed states do have a lot of consideration for their own interests, their wealth, for their transnational firms and financial institutions.

They continue denying their historical responsibility for climate change, and continue polluting, even more than before, but point their fingers at countries like China, India and Brazil, recently more significant polluters.

The peoples, both in the North as well as in the South, and even many mainly developing states, are just observers at the conferences. They are not consulted, while the consequences will be huge for the majority of the world population that live in developing countries and that has an insignificant responsibility for the climate crisis.

The next international meeting point for governments to discuss climate and the environment will be the Rio+20 Conference, 20 years after the 1992 conference in the same city like I alluded to in my last instalment last week.

In 1992, the environmental crisis was given a more central place in the international debate. After 20 years, the climate issue, and in broader terms, the environmental issue, has definitely lost priority for developed countries.

It seems to be only of interest to them if it can benefit their companies, their banks, their economic growth, including offsetting their pollution through REDD+ projects, falsely supposed to conserve forests.

Not surprisingly, Rio+20 actually put the word economy not environment, climate, nature or people at the centre of the debate. And to make it sound good, and not like business as usual, they call it not just economy but green economy argues World Rainforest Movement .

To demonstrate this, Chinese were allowed to build one of the biggest edifices on a wetland near the National Sports Stadium, and curiously, the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) has backed off after initially censuring the firm, ordering it to stop building until it complies with environmental impact assessments.

Ema also censured Harare City Council for allocating businesses and approving multi-million-dollar projects on wetlands in and around the capital.

It is curious because, wetlands are crucial and must be protected. But, Zimbabwe like many governments elsewhere, is putting profits ahead of the protection of the environment.

In December last year, one could hear civil society groups and social movements commenting: It is time that we build and decide on our own agenda, instead of following the agenda of the governments and their conferences, which do not lead to solutions, only to more frustrations, besides corporate profits.

Maybe this idea of an own agenda could be a way of dealing with and even influencing in a more fruitful way the conferences and governments.

Maybe such a co-ordinated effort in many countries all over the world, in the North and in the South, before, during and after the conferences, could make governments more willing to consider listening to the people and their demands.

And more concretely for Rio+20 and for the participating organisations, instead of going to the conferences and organising their often interesting but mostly fragmented and separated agenda of activities, they should work more together towards a joint agenda, which should include concrete support for the struggles of people in Africa and its Latin American counterparts, among other developing countries, against destructive projects, to put pressure on our governments for real solutions for the climate and related crises.

Developing nations need to be creative, to find ways of more effectively challenging unequal power relations, including unequal gender relations, in the world.

Social movements teach us that to change unequal power relations, movement building, with women and men, is an essential tool.

And it is possible to build a strong and powerful movement, especially if one realises that women and men all over the world are affected, although in different ways, by the profit-driven practices of corporations and other actors including states, backed by financial institutions and governments.

With a stronger and more common voice, it will become less and less easy for the government not to consider or not to listen to the people.

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