Rio+20: A Choice of the Heart
In the multicultural setting of the People’s Summit, the Barcelona Consensus event turns into a intergenerational dialogue where Samir Abi shares the Barcelona Consensus under a “arbre à palabre” - following the Western-African tradition to discuss and share ideas under a tree.
Already on the first day of the Rio +20 People’s Summit, the participating Civil Society members were faced with a tricky dilemma: a two hours bus ride between the location of the People’s Summit and the location of the official UN Summit. Those who had arrived with the hope to participate in both events were met with a harsh reality.
However, Samir Abi, the representative of the Barcelona Consensus, soon realized that it is hard to resist the atmosphere of the “Aterro Flamengo”, the place where the People’s Summit is held. The Aterro is wrapped in authentically Brazilian carnival feeling. Since June 15 and for the following week this is the place dedicated to social economy, to solidarity and to imaginations of a better future. The Aterro Flamengo is the place where indigenous peoples meet technological innovations. It is definitely the right place for the Barcelona Consensus.
During the first weekend in Rio, the BC Team was impressed to see whole families come and participate in workshops: young people accompagnied by their parents or their grandparents, and sometimes both. Discussing with different generations is an enriching pleasure and so Barcelona Consensus followed in its workshop the African tradition of “arbe à palabre”, a open meeting point to discuss and exchange ideas around the topic of “Engagement interculturel pour un monde juste et durable: Le Barcelona Consensus”. The event was held on June 16th and a great number of visitors joined in the discussion which turned out less formal than expected. The event attracted a large amount of the French speaking community at the Summit: Canadians, Belgians and French met to discuss a world livable for all. The tent was, however, also open for non-french speakers. Samir Abi was especially impressed by the level of English the local people spoke as for example a grandmother of 68, a native of the State “Minas Gerais” in northern Brazil who had learned English from her daughter. Knowledge has no age and no limit, the country of Paulo Freire proves it.
In Freire’s tradition, various methods of popular education are implemented at the People’s Summit to understand and expose the green economy and its false solutions proposed at the official summit. Twenty years after the Earth Summit it is the civil society who has done its homework on sustainable development: especially outstanding are the many educational materials on the issue.
Other highlights of the People’s Summit activities are the sharing of experience on the struggles in defense of common property: land, water, forests or simply the commodification of nature. Since 1992, this issue has become one of the greatest concern of the people in the South. While the official summit fails to address this topic, there is plenty of space for it at the People’s Summit. The struggle of the Malian Movement of the Voiceless against Extractivism and Land Grabbing resonates with the strife of the Women for Water and Land in India and the ongoing struggle of indigenous peoples in Brazil for the preservation of the rainforest. True alliances of people from the South are born at the People’s Summit which will be crucial to take up the fight en masse in future years.
No description of the People’s Summit would be complete without mentioning the “Caminho das Artes”, the path of art with its parade of Brazilian cultural groups. There you can enjoy samba groups with their “panderos” and “cuica”, capoeira groups with their “berimbau”, natives with their whistles and castanets, activists of the World March of Women and youngsters drumming on bicycles. Not an hour goes by without the tens of thousands of participants at the People’s Summit hearing the Brazilian songs recalling the years of struggle against all forms of oppression experienced by these groups over the past five hundred years.
The People’s Summit puts culture in its center, so that sustainability is not only understood in economic terms. Future generations must have the right to enjoy this beautiful cultural diversity, a heritage of thousands of years of human history. More than ever is this diversity threatened with disappearance.