‘We the peoples believe another world is possible’
While governments are confounded by globalisation, the fight for sustainable development is strong among peoples of the world. A new global campaign has been launched to stop the further corporate takeover of the planet, governments and the United Nations. Target: one million signatures for Johannesburg.
THE United Nations was created in the hope that unity of the international community will bring peace and cooperation that will ensure a safe and healthy planet. ‘We the peoples’ are the resounding opening words of the 1945 UN Charter that reaffirmed ‘faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small’.
However, as we enter the 21st century the corporate person has become more important than the human person. Treaties that are meant to protect the planet and peoples from the devastation of climate change, toxic chemicals and dangerous technologies are fast becoming the battleground for protecting narrow and short-term economic interests.
Powerful governments oppose, then dilute through negotiations, and eventually still walk away from treaties dealing with life-and-death issues, violating the good faith of international law-making. At the same time, new rules and policies are made that create more rights and obligations, privileges and access to the corporate sector. The 10 years between Rio 1992 and Johannesburg 2002 have been a triumph for globalisation that is driven by mercantile forces and economic liberalisation. Unfettered globalisation threatens to sweep away all the work that strives towards sustainability of the planet and peoples.
It is alarming for many citizen groups to see the downgrading and weakening of the United Nations, and the escalation of the influence of the international financial and trade organisations that do not hold to the spirit and principles of we the peoples’. The rich member states that serve more the commercial interest than peoples’ interests prefer to empower economic institutions like the IMF, World Bank and WTO or retain control through unequal bilateral or regional agreements. The majority of member states that should galvanise political support and energy for the United Nations are keeping silent.
Being held in financial ransom for so long, the United Nations secretariat seems to expect less of itself, and invites the corporate sector to join in partnerships that are very risky. Many governments are part of that tide, too. Inviting the polluter and exploiter to deliver sustainable development and to be part of decision-making is to jeopardise the ability of the state to be the arbiter in the interests of we the peoples.
One million signatures for hope and activism
Yet, in the midst of financial crises, corporate scandals, unstable economic systems, increasing trade protectionism while the mantra of free trade is trumpeted, and ecological crises, there is much hope, too. We the peoples have always spoken out and acted when there is injustice. Ordinary citizens have gone to the street against the oppression of IMF conditionalities, corporations that poison their lands and bodies, governments that violate their rights, trade rules that throw them off their lands. Citizens from the North are joining in mass protest against the forces that tear at the fabric of industrial society itself, and that undermine the sustainability of the South.
There is a wealth of innovative good practices and experiences especially in the South. Many are rooted in time-tested traditional knowledge and systems, and others are innovations that have evolved through experience and the needs of particular societies at different times. Alliances of peoples - communities, NGOs, scientists, women, youth, and some governments and parts of the UN - are actively working with each other at all levels, especially at the community level.
Across Africa, Asia and Latin America, there are rich sustainable livelihood initiatives, economic and environmental initiatives, social policies, indigenous knowledge, appropriate technology as well as citizens’ initiatives in social services, popular education and human rights. Where there is democratic space to organise and to influence government policy, these experiences can be spread, further evolved and even become mainstream policy.
A number of common principles that inspire these citizens’ sustainable development initiatives include: respect for local cultures and knowledge systems; genuine harmony with nature; quality outcomes of real benefit to local communities and countries; and equity and democratic involvement. With solidarity and collaboration we can build on these and more so that we can indeed reshape globalisation and return the planet to we the peoples.
When thousands of concerned citizens and activists gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil early this year in the counter-conference to the World Economic Forum of industry, the theme was: Another World is Possible.
In May, when governments and citizen groups meet in Bali for the final preparatory meeting of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, a global campaign will be launched. ‘We the Peoples Believe Another World is Possible’ will be a strong collective call of citizens worldwide for the return of the United Nations to the peoples, and not allow business and industry to take over an institution that is more needed than ever as we face increasing turbulence in the world.
As a first step, one million signatures will be the target for citizens’ groups to bring to Johannesburg. This collective call will be taken to every part of the UN, and to every meeting of the WTO, World Bank and IMF. It is a call to every government that they return to the peoples, and not be privatised into the hands of business. It is a call for the protection of rights of communities to natural resources and their own knowledge.
It is a celebration of the courage of women and men, young and old, who struggle daily for their rights, their communities, for the environment, for a healthy planet, for justice and equity. ‘We the Peoples’ is a celebration of diversity of seeds, the freedom of soils, water and air from corporate takeover. It is a celebration of those who struggle against injustices and oppression, whether it is continuing colonialism, imperialism, market manipulation, structural adjustment policies of the IMF, the dictates of the World Bank, the spreading stronghold of the WTO or the violation of rights by governments.
It is a rejection of technologies and products that endanger nature, health and life such as genetically engineered seeds, nuclear technology and toxic chemicals. It is a rejection of the patenting of nature.
We the peoples reject the notion that globalisation is inevitable - we are committed to changing the course of globalisation and development paradigms that destroy peoples and nature. We believe that Another World Is Possible.