Robert Athickal, SJ
Rio de Janeiro, 18 June: The long awaited Rio+20 Summit is on. Over 20,000 people have descended into the sprawling metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. The auditoriums, parley halls, venues for side events and the exhibition stalls are spread out in the Barra da Tijuca area, a hour of drive away from the city. Hundreds of especially arranged government-run buses carry the delegates up and down every day.
There were many stalls and halls the participants could choose to attend programs of their interest. Many processes are going on to finalize and present the Statement to the World Leaders on 20 June. There are interactive sessions, especially between NGOs and chairmen of the many UN bodies. So far, government delegates have arrived upon a consensus of 37% of the working draft.
There is a stark fact one has to face. The UN has been on a deadlock for several years. The world community is polarized at several levels. The big fighters are the Group of 77 (G-77) and China, a bloc of 134 countries from the developing world and the rest of the developed countries of world. G-77 is originally a group co-founded by India but since then has become a rather solid bloc of countries. China has not joined them as a member, but supports them. So the group is always referred to as G-77 and China.
To cite an example of their polarization, Medical Mission Sister Celine this morning told a small group of religious that the corporation-sponsored lobby wanted to drop the word “Right for Water” and replace it with “Access to Water” in the document. They feel jittery when somebody talks about the right-based approach to ecology. Both camps are speaking from different worldviews and interests. The First World corporations cannot agree with the human right for water since it would mean they have to pay high costs.
So the final document at the end of the Summit will have a few more lines added to the original vision of Rio Summit of 1992. Twenty years hence, the fight is still on.
The pitfall of this fight is that it could get prolonged for many more years. This would give the much-needed time for corporations to rake in all the profits and fill up their coffers. At the NGO meeting, it was suggested that we pool our resources to mobilize the acceptable mediators, such as Norway and Sweden, to push for an earlier settlement.
At the UN meetings, there are no crisp and clear talks. All one has to say has to be veiled in diplomatic phrases and jargons.
Lobbying is the way out here. Take a diplomat for a coffee and then talk to him/her as if they are the most important people in the world. Never venture any clear ideas, but rather wait for the person to seek clarifications and gently place your perspective without them knowing that you are lobbying!
There are many religious congregations taking active part in the negotiations and lobbying. Several pointed out the absence of Jesuits in these meetings.
The Jesuit-sponsored Tarumitra from India had a student delegation to organize a side event on the need to save electricity as the need of the hour. The tribal student, Ms Shweta Marandi, showed in her presentation the connection between the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth. As a tribal Santhal, she showed how corporations decimated her community, with support from the government who moved in and displaced the tribal communities for to strip-mine coal. She categorically stated in her presentation, “Your electric bulbs are powered by tribal people’s blood!”
Theologians like Leonardo Boff, big fighters against patenting of seeds like Vandana Shiva, agricultural scientists like Miguel Altieri, and others are regularly seen in meetings creating public opinion.
The temperature of the meetings will soar when the world leaders arrive on 20 June. The local government declared three days of holidays to keep the world leaders away from the ubiquitous traffic jams!
Published by Tarumitra