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UPDATE: World Social Forum 2012 – Capitalist Crisis, Social and Environmental Justice

Just as world leaders are making their yearly trek to court global corporate sanction in Davos at the World Economic Forum, social movements and activists from around the globe are concurrently gathering in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The goal of the World Social Forum (WSF), however, is much different than that of the capitalist group hug it was created to challenge. In contrast to our governments going to receive annual blessings in Davos, social movements join to deconstruct this fundamentalist economic agenda and challenge the impacts wrought on people and nature.

I am here, working with activists from the Water Justice Movement on what must be our next steps for our movement. I am also very much involved with the deliberations around the Green Economy and our response to this very obvious attempt to expand Capitalism and Markets to Nature itself. A major goal of those in Davos will be to set the platform for the Green Economy at the Rio+20 Summit in June, a platform which will ensure ongoing implementation of this Green Economy Initiative.

Tonight, President Dilma of Brazil will address the Forum. She has rejected going to Davos in favour of meeting with social movements in Porto Alegre, even though Brazil is one of the rising stars in the global economy. This is a positive development as our relationships within Brazil and with this government are going to be very important in the coming months as we approach the Rio+20 Summit in June.

Unfortunately, we do not have much time to act. The negotiations on the Zero Draft text for Rio begin this week in New York, and the pressure on those governments who are sceptical or against the Green Economy will be immense over the next weeks. The pressure will be exerted in Davos, in New York, in Geneva and in Marseille at the World Water Forum. If there is not a counter-acting force by social movements, we will most certainly see a Green Economy launch in Rio this year.

What does this mean, having a Green Economy platform and UN systems in place to promote the Green Economy?

My analysis is that it means that from our water, air and land, all natural systems that can be monetized and financialized, will be. This is not speculation, it is already happening. If you look at the Climate Change negotiations the Green Economy shows up as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), the Green Climate Facility, Carbon Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and more. All of these are subverting the traditional UN mechanisms of hard targets, accountability and treaties in favour of voluntary measures, ‘innovative’ financial instruments and market-based solutions. All of these have been opposed by social movements as very destructive to communities and designed to use the climate to create more wealth for the 1%. This is the Green Economy playing out in Climate and it means that there will be no reduction in emissions and global warming will accelerate despite all the attention and catastrophic impacts. This is the Green Economy in action.

In water it will be no less destructive. We will see funds (even through the climate financing) for implementing water markets, big dams, facilitating water property rights and systems to allow trading. Water commodification and privatisation of water services will get a big boost as the Green Economy will facilitate the push to technological solutions which will be controlled by the transnationals. Public money will be pumped into this and private actors will reap the benefits. The system will be controlled by the World Bank, regional development banks, whose history is very pro-private.

In land, food sovereignty movements, the impacts will be felt as people are pushed off the land for dams, plantations, because they have no water rights etc. The picture is certainly bleak, but it gets worse if we do not stop the Green Economy.

What we will have that is worse, is that Nature will then be subject to Enron, Lehman Brothers, Sub-prime style derivatives trading and all the speculation and gambling that comes with these ‘innovative’ financial markets they will create. This means that capital will have a new haven, new products will be created and people and communities will lose control of their destinies. Does this sound bad, yes, it is! This is a desperate attempt by those who created the crisis and peak everything, to use markets to ensure their corporations still have access as the available water and arable land becomes increasingly scarce. On top of this climate change will add much fuel to the fire because drought, desertification and draining of aquifers as water sources dry up will lead to many more environmental refugees because of conflict over water, famine and basic lack of access to water.

For all these reasons, Rio+20 and the fight against the Green Economy, I believe, is the biggest threat we have ever faced. This is why this year’s WSF is undoubtedly the most critical of those over the 11 previous years since the 2001 inception.

Last night, at the Assembly of Social Movements meeting, many people spoke of the threats of the Green Economy, I spoke of the need for implementing an inside strategy with governments right away. Still, there was not consensus and this means that it is very unclear whether a broad campaign can be launched here in Porto Alegre. I won’t get into the politics of this now, and hope that we are able to shift this in the next few days, but even if there is no campaign launch officially in Porto Alegre, we need a call to go out so all who are opposed know what is at stake in Rio.

Friends of the Earth is also a strong partner and our affiliation and long working relationship with FOEI is very positive! I am also working with a smaller informal group which includes our friend, Ambassador Pablo Solon, who is a very strong voice here in Porto Alegre on the Green Economy. Yesterday we spoke on a panel together put together by IBON of the Philippines and ABONG of Brazil. Our work on water with Public Services International is also very important and today we have the second thematic session on water where I am one of the facilitators. My hope is that this work will produce a strong pole for action here at the World Social Forum.

The Global Water Justice movement is a strong base and we must discuss how we can facilitate towards Rio and use Marseille as a strong political moment to push back. We will, however, need other allies and it is important that this fight is a collective fight crossing issues and movements!

I hope to report better news from Porto Alegre in the coming days, but for now it is clear that much more work needs to be done.