Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, during a speaking tour in Virginia on April 24-25, 2010. (Photo: Ana Edwards), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Rio+20 Summit Ends Without Plan for Sustainable Development
Zimbabwe, Cuba, NGOs, blast West for failure to take responsibility for world crisis
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was the scene of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, a more than one week long series of pre-summit gatherings, demonstrations and three days of speeches by leaders of various countries throughout the world. This event marked the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit which took place in the same city in 1992.
The conference was attended by over 45,000 people from around the globe representing 190 countries with 100 or more heads-of-state taking to the podium to articulate their views on the environment, economic development and the balance of power between the industrialized capitalist states and the so-called developing countries.
This event was hailed as the largest UN conference ever held. The Brazilian government was determined that it would not end in the type of acrimony that characterized the Copenhagen climate-change summit of 2009 when African countries walked out over their frustrations related to the inability of the developed states to take responsibility for global warming and its impact on continent.
A 49-page document entitled “The Future We Want” was released after the summit that did not provide any specific time tables or achievable goals. As a result of this outcome, many nongovernmental organizations and so-called civil society groups condemned the event as another talk shop that would not bring about any tangible improvement in the conditions of poverty and underdevelopment inflicting billions of people around the world.
The two most militaristic imperialist powers, the United States and Britain, did not bother to send their leaders to address the conference. Barack Obama, who sent Hillary Clinton, was busy trying to assure his re-election to the presidency and David Cameron, who sent his coalition partner Nick Clegg, was subsumed in the worsening sovereign debt crisis in Europe that threatens to engulf the continent and other parts of the world in another financial downturn with even more grave implications than the events of 2007-2009.
An indication of the anti-western sentiment at the Rio+20 Conference was reflected in the response of the people outside the gathering to British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s appearance on a giant screen at the food court. He was met with hisses and boos.
Alan Oxley, chairman of World Growth, which describes itself as a pro-development lobby with specific interest in promoting palm oil, said of the final conference document that “It’s really hard to find good news in the 49-page text.” Another delegate, Bo Normander, European director of Worldwatch Institute, said “I want more of the future than this agreement’s long list of platitudes and feeling-good rhetoric.” (Irish Times, June 25)
In regard to the section on the “green economy” included in chapter three, Normander notes that “the description is ambiguous, unambitious and immeasurable and there are no specific targets or commitments which can bind countries to do something. The EU should not have accepted it.”
The document does not contain any commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which are estimated to be valued at $1 trillion internationally.
The director of Trocaire, Justin Kilcullen, pointed out that the levying of taxes on financial transactions, “which could generate billions in revenue each year to eliminate poverty and tackle climate change,” was not mandated.
Over the last two decades conditions related to the environment and the class divisions between rich and poor have worsened. The Earth Summit of 1992 put forward significant ideas exposing the problems of climate change and biodiversity as well as the need to eradicate poverty and achieve social justice.
Nonetheless since 1992, global emissions have increased by 48 percent, some 300 hectares of forest land has been razed while the world population has grown by 1.6 billion with no real plans to provide food, water, shelter, education and economic resources for these people. Over the last several years, more uncertainty has developed due to the multi-trillion debt crisis, the rise in unemployment and the prevalence of military interventions in Central Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. (Guardian, UK, June 23)
Alternative Approaches from Africa and Latin America
However, two speeches delivered by the presidents of Zimbabwe and Cuba
did shed light on the current crisis as well as a way forward for the majority of people throughout the world.
President Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe blasted the international financial institutions for their role in the current global crisis. Mugabe noted that “The 2008 to 2009 economic and financial crises were spawned by activities that were not based on the real economy but on speculative practices.” (Zimbabwe Herald, June 21)
Mugabe continued by pointing out that “We need to strengthen global monitoring as well as regulatory and accountability mechanism. It is unfortunate that despite its dire consequences, the financial crisis has not triggered the much-needed political commitment for the long-overdue reform of international financial structures.”
Claiming that the imperialist states are almost in denial about the severity of the current situation, Mugabe stressed that “Regrettably, some quarters are down-playing the gravity of this issue and eroding the sensitive role it plays in the United Nations and international financial institutions. We call for the complete overhaul of the global economic and financial governance structures so that they are more responsive to the needs of poor states, particularly those that are more vulnerable.”
Another major address given by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, at the Rio+20 Summit observed that “What could have been considered alarmist, today constitutes an irrefutable reality. The inability to transform unsustainable models of production and consumption is threatening the balance and regeneration of natural mechanisms which sustain life forms on the planet.” (Granma International, June 22)
President Castro said that “The effects cannot be hidden. Species are becoming extinct at a speed one hundred times faster than those indicated in fossil records; more than five million hectares of forests are lost every year; and close to 60 percent of ecosystems are degraded.”
The Cuban leader concluded by emphasizing that “We are required to make a
transcendental change. The only alternative is to build more just societies; to establish a more equitable international order based on respect for the rights of all; to ensure the sustainable development of nations, especially those of the South; and place advances in science and technology at the service of the salvation of the planet and human dignity.”
Capitalism is Unsustainable
Consequently, the role of the world capitalist system is causing monumental problems throughout the globe that affect the overwhelming majority of people. Since these abuses involving the exploitation and oppression of both human society and the natural environment are centered largely in the capitalist states, the working class and oppressed within these regions have an added responsibility to bring about fundamental change.
Despite the pledges of US$175 billion by eight multi-lateral development banks to work toward resolving the problems of environmental degradation, poverty and hunger, these goals will not be achieved without the overthrow of international finance capital and its surrogates. The profitability of capitalism is derived from these very problems that imperialists claim they are committed to alleviating.
Therefore, inside the industrialized states, the workers and oppressed must within their political and social programs work vigorously to bring about fundamental economic change. In working towards change broader alliances and coalitions between the peoples of the industrialized states and the developing world can be built and sustained which will result in a more prosperous and peaceful world.