Just days before the UN summit on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro, the alternative "Summit of Nations" is set to get underway. Participants from 50 countries will be participating. All are critical of Rio+20.
Rio de Janeiro, a city full of contrasts, is host to two sustainability summits this month which couldn't be more different from one another. Unlike politicians, diplomats and business leaders at the Rio+20 summit, the participants of the "Cupula dos Povos" - the "Summit of Nations" - will not stay in expensive hotels in the Brazilian jet-setting metropolis. They will sleep in schools, locker rooms at the Carnival stadium "Sambodromo" and in tents on the university campus.
The "Summit of Nations" runs from June 15-23, with some 30,000 participants expected to attend. Representatives from indigenous organizations, lawyers, psychologists, representatives of slum dwellers and organizations opposed to nuclear energy will all be there.
"It is a very broad coalition of major organizations such as trade unions, farmers, citizens' movements and non-government organizations," said David Bartelt of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Rio de Janeiro.
Social organizations from over 50 countries have travelled to Rio to express their scepticism against the United Nations. They argue that a solution to the environmental crisis requires respect for the rights of traditional peoples.
Their complaint: the UN's environmental policy plays up to the interests of businesses, who use nature as an economic commodity. So it promotes exactly that by freeing the industrial countries from changing its consumerist and wasteful ways. That's how Pedro Ivo Batista, one of the organizers of the summit, summarizes the participants' criticism.
Brazilians have set a bad example with large hydropower plants in the Amazon region, the rapid granting of mining permits in indigenous areas, a dubious nuclear policy and weakening environmental regulation impact the image of the host nation, organizers of the "Cupula dos Povos" said.
Even more doubtful however is the credibility of rich countries. "As - at least historically - the biggest polluters have to be the first to propose the changes," criticized Pedro Ivo Batista. Instead they feared the economic crisis.
"The big companies are using the current crisis to impose solely economic solutions. This issue is far more complex than the economy," said Batista.
Changing to a "green model"
The International Chamber of Commerce responded to these accusations by organizing a lecture and discussion forum as a part of Rio+20. There it presents 10 principles that can serve as a guide for companies who want to change to a "green model."
"We believe a green economy can only be achieved in collaboration with governments and civil society," said Carlos Busquets, deputy director of the political department at the Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with DW. Among the speakers and panelists are senior managers and representatives from international companies such as Volkswagen, Bosch, US aluminium giant Alcoa, and the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer.
The organizer of the "Cupula dos Povos" can be considered as anti-capitalists. They fear the approach of the UN to find a market-orientated way only serves to further increase the production and marketing of natural resources.
Hope springs eternal
The list of proposed solutions to the "Cupula dos Povos" includes solid economic practice, such as social engineering projects like the construction of cisterns and the sustainable management of forests. Social movements are also to be given more importance.
After all, the UN summit is a chance to draft tighter regulations in favor of sustainable development, said Batista, but his expectations are subdued. "A big part of the problem lies in the fact that countries fail to keep their promises. The UN is not able to punish governments that don't implement what they agree to."
Nevertheless, organizers of the "Summit of Nations" want to develop a list with recommendations which they want to present to UN summit participants at Rio+20.
Author: Nadia Pontes / jlw
Editor: Sarah Steffen