Rio + 20, the side-actions 

by: Jessie Lin

            The much anticipated United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20 takes place from June 20th to June 22nd in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this year.  It marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit which also took place in Rio.  During that same week, there will also be an international mobilization happening simultaneously called “The People’s Summit”.  The series of events will go on from June 15th to June 23rd.  Most of the representatives from ATTAC going to Rio will attend mainly the events at the People’s Summit.

June 20th, the opening day of the conference in Rio is also designated by the activists as the World Day of Mobilization for social justice and environment and to say “no to their version of green economy.”  In Rio de Janeiro a massive protest is set to take the streets.  Those of us who are staying in France will also have the chance to participate in an event held at the Place de la Bourse, a symbolic place which houses the Paris Stock Exchange and near the big Banking Power of France, BNP Paribas.  A lively scene is set to take place to denounce the commodification of the common goods.  A mock session will shape in the form in the auctioning of the Earth and its basic commodities involving players representing the World Bank, the Multinationals, and the big Banks.

It’s quite daunting to see that during every single big international conference, there are always side events put on with the great coordination and collaboration of collectives around the world.  In my personal point of view, events like the G20, World Water Forum, Rio + 20, etc. brings officials around the world together to show the world that they are merely attempting to do something with problems like climate change.  States like Russia and China always refuses to sign on with the majority because of political reasons.  Other developed nations will make big and empty promises and meaningless declarations.  As history has shown, those promises don’t really mean much.  Because, honestly speaking who is held responsible when a certain demand isn’t made?  In the end, these conferences end up being a big waste of time, energy, and money.  Heads of States walk away putting blames on each other while the public gets disappointed once again.

Side events such as the People’s summit, as well as other events taking place at the same time in the world are the heart of the discussions and actions.  It was simply amazing this last two years to see movements after movements that took place one after another.  The movements reinforced each other into the series of mobilizations happening in the world today.  If these chains of events sustain and keep going, it will become harder for the international community to ignore.  We, the citizens of the world, are the ones who need to hold the International organizations such as the World Bank, the UN, the IMF, the G20 etc. responsible for the promises and actions they make.  The process is long and frustrating, but as long as the pressure sustains itself and keeps growing, it will be hard to overlook.

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I attended the event at the Place de la Bourse expecting to see an enormous crowd of people almost in an “occupy mode” in front of the Bourse.  However, when I arrived, I was a little disappointed by what I saw.  There were probably only fifty people present.  The only activities going on were a few people playing drums, a big ball representing the earth being passed around, and a few people dressed up as rich corporates with fake 500 Euro bills trying to buy “nature”.  There were a few TV cameras and photographers present.  The biggest NGO presence at the scene was probably Friends of the Earth, while only a few ATTAC members were there.  The entire event lasted for less than an hour.

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I later discussed with Gilles, one of the organizers of this event from ATTAC regarding my thoughts.  He told me that in general it is very hard to mobilize in Paris over environmental issues.  Social issues seem to be more at the heart of discussions of Parisians, though we both agreed that the two issues are not mutually exclusive of each other.  The event also took place at noon, when it was hard for people to leave work in order to participate.  Gilles told me that the idea of this mobilization was supposed to be more symbolic than active.  However, I felt like ATTAC could’ve done more to advertise the event.  I asked a week ago why there is not information on the ATTAC website regarding this day of mobilization?  It was agreed that we should do something, but nothing ever got done.  Therefore, the diffusion of information from the very first place was sparse.  Nevertheless, an action took place, and at least the ideology was spread.

What I would like to see in the future is events like this take place more frequently in Taiwan.  An international event is taking place to discuss the issues affect all citizens of the world.  It’s true that traditionally Taiwan hasn’t had a strong mobilizing force, and given Taiwan’s history, our country has always been excluded in many international events and talks.  But I think now with so many networks around, it would be more and more manageable for NGOs inside Taiwan to coordinate with each other and put on even just a small demonstration to show the people what is happening in the world and why we should care.  In my opinion, everything starts with knowledge of an issue.  People are often idle because they simply are in the dark.  But the times are changing (aren’t they always?) so we can only hope for the best!

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