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UPDATE: Thematic social forum in Porto Alegre plans for Rio+20

I have just arrived in Sao Paolo, Brazil en route to Porto Alegre where a thematic social forum is now underway focused on the Rio+20 Earth Summit that will take place in June.

The upcoming United Nations summit had raised some hope that world leaders could come together in an inclusive forum that would begin to address the environmental crisis our planet now faces.

Instead, perhaps not surprisingly, initial reports suggest a corporate, pro-privatization bias in the lead-up talks, as well as non-binding targets, long time lines for implementation, and more rhetoric than substance (or a progressive rhetoric that hides a dangerous agenda).

So I am here with many questions that I hope to explore over the next several days.

Those questions include:

1- What could be the implications of Rio+20 on our campaigns related to the commons; the human right to water and sanitation; the rights of nature; and climate justice approaches to the climate crisis?

2- How will the talks relate to the ongoing push for privatization of the public good; global austerity measures; and agenda of trade liberalization?

3- Do we maintain a hope for a positive outcome as we did at the Copenhagen climate summit, or do we approach it with an experience-based disappointment and critique as we did with the Durban climate talks?

4- Do we demand that leaders go to Rio+20 and take responsibility for the actions needed to address the environmental crisis? Or given the shameful role played by the Harper government at recent climate talks, do we think it would be better for Canada not to be there to derail what progress might be possible? Does Harper or his ministers even plan to go given his ideological-ally British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will not attend?

5- How will the global social justice movement come together to credibly and effectively press for progressive action? Are there useful inside strategies to pursue? Should we only be on the streets protesting? Should we do both?

I think there will be an active and important debate in the coming days and months on this – something for all of us to participate in.

Already there is a call by Montreal-based Alternatives for a day of action in Canada in early-June just prior to Rio+20. We’ve expressed our support for this and we’ll see how those plans develop in the coming weeks.

And in that it is a ‘thematic social forum’ meeting in Porto Alegre this week, it may also provide us with some insights to the proposal that a Canada-Quebec-First Nations social forum be organized, perhaps in 2013.

More soon.