Rio+20: Governmental Dead-end versus Social Convergence at the People’s Summit

Date de la référence: 
28 June, 2012

(RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL)- June 21st 2012 – While the assembled heads of state were clearly exhibiting a lack of will to act at the United Nations Conference on sustainable development (Rio+20), Québec civil society representatives were meeting with social movements activists from around the world at the Peoples Summit for Social and Environmental Justice. During a press statement at the People’s Summit, Québécois members of environmental, youth, student and First Nations associations, as well as organizations fighting against poverty and trade unions, have voiced their answers to governmental inertia and to the Plan Nord Project by Jean Charest, premier of Québec. All this in a context of mass mobilization this spring in Québec.

“Short of a miracle, Rio+20 will be a deplorable failure and will not allow for the protection of peoples and the environment. Knowing this, it is important to act locally and put pressure on governments, while hoping that heads of state, starting with Mr. Harper, will one day be able to listen to the will of populations” has stated Patrick Bonin, climate-energy director at the Québecois association against air pollution (AQLPA).

“The Plan Nord should be an opportunity to develop northern Québec according to the needs of First Nations, Inuit and Québécois in general. It is a great chance to unite all of Québec on the basis of the sustainable development of our common good”, declared Louis Roy, president of the National Unions Confederation.

“We ask of the Charest government to hold a true consultation on the Plan Nord and that it be done with respect of local communities” has insisted Patrick Rondeau, regional rep at the Québec Federation of Labour (QFL). “This consultation would have to deal with job creation, with economic fallout for Québec and with environmental protection”.

According to Andrée-Anne Vézina, coordinator of the Sustainable Development Institute of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, “ The Plan Nord will have a major impact on the rights of indigenous communities. Despite this, the process of consultation is obsolete and incomplete, and many First Nations have been put aside even when their consent was necessary”.

Indeed, the delegate of the CLASSE student association, and member of its Social struggles committee, Rushdia Mehreen, condemns the fact that “with the Plan Nord, the Charest government is destroying the environment and stealing indigenous peoples’ ancestral land. Moreover, it is impervious to students’ demands, thereby compromising the future of Quebec society. Jean Charest’s liberal government is unable to respond to crises, be they ecological or social. We need general assemblies and consultation- in other words, a receptive government- to handle these crises”.

“It is apparent that university professors in Latin America, as those in Québec, have come to fight against a marketization of education” has underlined Michèle St-Denis, militant of the professors against tuition hikes Network.

The representant of Québec youth, Marie-Josée Paquette-Comeau, has declared that « a Quebecois youth declaration has been submitted this morning, an initiative supported by the Bruntland green establishments, the CSQ and Oxfam-Québec ».

For Raphaël Canet, from UNIAlter, “we are observing an increasing gap between governments and peoples. Populations no longer feel represented and civil society organizations do not have a choice but to rally in order to promote alternative propositions. The fact that the Québec civil society delegation is so large and diversified gives us hope”.

“The People’s Summit is inspiring in its will to merge social struggles towards a common goal” has rejoiced Michel Lambert, General Director of Alternatives, whose organization is a member of the Rio Summit organizing committee. “ We are already working on creating a Pan-Canadian Social Forum gathering social movements from across Canada to oppose the right-wing agenda of the Harper government”.

Organizations will take advantage of the last two days of the People’s summit to facilitate the convergence of social movements, establish new alliances and come up with common action plans and strategies. The People’s Summit aims to identify the causes behind the environmental and social crises and propose solutions and strategies to fight them.

About the People’s Summit for environmental and social justice, against a marketization of life and in defense of the common good:
The People’s Summit is a place where social movements and civil society organizations from Brazil and all over the world tackle the question of the socio-environmental crisis in a global fashion. They want to challenge the dominant productivist and consumerist model, by questioning capitalism and emphasizing people’s sovereignty and climate justice. More than 100 000 people were gathered at the Summit, which took place between the 15th and the 23rd of June, in order to partake in more than 1600 activities. These converged towards the adoption of a People’s declaration, made public on June 22nd.

About the Québec Delegation to the Rio+20 People’s summit:
A delegation composed of 77 people and coordinated by and Alternatives, YMCA Québec International Initiatives and the UNIAlter collective, took part in the Rio People’s Summit. The delegation is made up of students, indigenous youths as well as activists from unions, environmental, community and international solidarity organizations. In total, delegates came from 27 civil society organizations as well as 4 universities and two colleges.