Civil society activists join forces to protest at Rio+20

From Ibon International

Rio de Janeiro, Sunday, June 17, 2012 – Civil society activists from across the world joined for a protest on Sunday inside the Riocentro convention center to push the messsage: “Our Future, Our Voice.”

The activists, part of the Rights for Sustainability campaign, taped their mouths and held placards before gathered media.

The protest was in reaction to a lack of voice for civil society at Rio+20; back-tracking on the Rio principles established at the 1992 Earth Summit; and the prioritizing of unregulated corporate interests over human rights and equity.

Paul Quintos of IBON International, which coordinates the NGO Cluster on Rights and Equity at Rio+20, and the Rights for Sustainability advocacy platform, said: “Civil society’s ability to promote the voice of the people it represents has been steadily eroded throughout the process leading up to Rio+20.”

“Instead of progress and solutions in negotiations, we are seeing back-tracking on commitments established in 1992. Principles that protect human rights and equity are disappearing, watered down or remain devoid of concrete means to implement them.

“Developed countries are shirking their historical responsibility to address the problem of environmental degradation and the economic crisis they have largely caused.  Instead, governments are promoting greater reliance on the private sector as if blind to the terrible consequences of corporate- and finance-led globalisation for the people and the environment.”

Negotiations on the Rio+20 outcome document were extended on Friday night and will continue until tomorrow, Monday, before the document is finalised before heads of state arrive on Wednesday. But while civil society groups participating in the process are allowed access to the meetings rooms they are denied any meaningful participation in determining the outcome of the document titled “The Future We Want”.

Ahmed Swapan, executive director of VOICE, a rights-based group from Bangladesh said: “The voice of civil society is being kept silent, which is a gross violation of human rights and free expression.

“There can’t be a real sustainable development without the input of civil society, which is supposed to be a stakeholder at Rio+20, but in reality is not being heard.”

Protests at Rio+20 are subject to 24 hours notice and a permit. And while a permit was not forthcoming, the activists went ahead with their non-disruptive mobilization. Joining Rights for Sustainability and Philippines-based IBON International were activists from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), European Solidarity Towards Equal Participation of People (Eurostep), theNaga People’s Movement for Human Rights (India), Roots for Equity (Pakistan), and VOICE (Bangladesh), among others.

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