Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Many struggles, one movement

Monthly Archives: June 2012

June 20 Solidarity March with Autódromo Community Fighting Displacement

Protestors were met with hundreds of cops in riot gear, tanks, and helicopters, protecting the entrance to Rio Centro.

On the morning of the June 20th Global Day of Action, GGJ members joined La Vía Campesina and other social movements in a solidarity march through the Autódromo community of Rio de Janeiro to Rio Centro, the site of the Rio+20 UN conference.  The Autódromo community is fighting the construction of Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, and is part of a coalition of communities fighting displacement by megaprojects related to the World Cup, the Olympic Games, and other large international events.  “We just want the World Cup and the Olympic Games with benefits for all and respect for our rights!” say the organizers.

Autódromo is just next door to Rio Centro, divided by a small canal, which runs along the road that all delegates going to the UN conference had to travel. Community members hung signs saying “Sustainability for Whom?” and “Sustainability! The community suffers threats of being removed. Olympic Games 2016: A Nightmare for Us!”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Below is the English version of a statement that was circulated at the protest by the People’s Council of Rio de Janeiro [transcribed verbatim, please excuse grammatical errors due to translation]:


In the month that occurs the global meeting called Rio+20, supposedly to discuss the course of the “Sustainable Economy” in the world, who sits on the table to make decisions ARE NOT THE PEOPLE, but their supposed representatives: the national and international authorities. These authorities have gathered here 20 years ago (during Eco-92), took several decisions, but since then things only got worse, socially and environmentally.

“Authorities” discourses about environmental preservation actually is a big LIE, because what we see is the total devastation of nature by the actions of large construction companies and property market, which in Rio de Janeiro have the omission and complicity of the Judges, Legislators, Governor and the Mayor. The result is the disappearance of wildlife and native vegetation, pollution and extinction of rivers and lakes, for the construction of luxury condominiums, corporate buildings and highways.

The same discourse of environmental preservation used by government officials has served as an excuse for the removal of traditional “favelas” (shantytowns), thus bypassing the laws dealing with the right to dignified and healthy housing for poor workers. Families who live in the favelas are removed and/or violently evicted against their will to distant places, destroying our social life and local culture, and the land are criminally negotiated by governmental power with the speculation: why do resettle favelas’ workers [live] in miserable residences of 40 square meters?

The program “Minha Casa Minha Vida” (My House My Life), the Federal Government’s proposal as an alternative to solve the housing problem of the working poor, has been used to inject public money into the pockets of private civil construction companies, and the municipal and state departments of housing have acted as mediators of these interests, thus oppressing the favelas’ residents and pressing them [to] turn in their homes.

With the realization of mega-events in Rio de Janeiro—from Rio+20 itself until the 2016 Olympics games—this tragic reality to the favelas have worsened. Only on account of projects related to these international events, more than 150,000 people will be threatened with forced removal in the next four years. Hegemonic forces still want to remove another 100 thousand people through arguments in which encompass environmental risk and environmental preservation that does not meet the technical criteria and legal requirements. Many communities are already extinct or disfigured.

We, workers, are entitled to a healthy environment and the place where we always lived. We do not want this “Sustainable Economy” which sustains removal of people under urban and environmental pretexts. We want respect and the expansion of our rights. We want to sanitation, environmental restoration, improvements in housing, quality in public services, social justice and equality!



Rio de Janeiro, June 20th, 2012.

US Priorities Were in Mexico at the G20, Not in Brazil at Rio+20

by Sha Grogan-Brown, for Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

As the GGJ delegation returns back from Brazil this week, most reports on the unveiling of the “Green Economy” at Rio+20 are calling the UN conference at best a stalemate, if not a complete failure.  After his first day of attending the UN conference, Kali Akuno of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reported back to the GGJ delegation an analysis of what we could expect: “Inside the UN summit, the US is playing the bad cop and the UN is playing the good cop, but they share the same goal of putting capital in the driver seat of the process.  The US is really leading the charge.”  Kali shared that from a grassroots perspective, the best we could hope for coming out of Rio+20 was that there be no changes to the 1992 agreements.

This ended up being the outcome—the proposed changes to the 1992 commitments were so contentious that in the end it seemed best to settle for what was affirmed 20 years ago.  “As a result, the draft document, which seems set to become the final document, takes us precisely nowhere: 190 governments have spent 20 years bracing themselves to “acknowledge”, “recognise” and express “deep concern” about the world’s environmental crises, but not to do anything about them,” reports George Manbiot of the UK news source The Guardian.

While most of the policies defined in 1992 will continue to have a devastating impact on people and the planet, there were a few principles which set important precedents that the US and the UN were trying to do away with all together.  One in particular that the US was attempting to get removed is Principle 7, which refers to “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities.”  This principle affirms that those industrialized countries in the global north that contribute more to the climate crisis have a greater responsibility in addressing the impacts of the crisis.  Keeping this clause is a victory in principle, but we have yet to see what concrete actions global elites will actually take to follow through on it.

The US government was strikingly absent at Rio+20 last week.  Hillary Clinton flew in to Rio for just a few hours on the last day of the conference to hold an exclusive high-level press conference announcing a financing mechanism for private investments in clean energy in Africa, and the US delegation failed to show up at many side events they had scheduled.  They clearly chose to prioritize attendance at the G20 meeting in Mexico, which is no big surprise given how much easier it is for them to move their neoliberal agenda through that process.  The G20 is a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 major economies who have annual closed-door meetings where they come together to influence the global economy and financial system.  “The presence in Mexico of the presidents of the major economies, many of whom will not be in Rio, reinforces the news that the major decisions to be made at Rio+20 were already defined and packaged for the G20 meetings,” reports the Global Justice Ecology Project.

Knowing that the main goal of the US at Rio+20 was to impose more of the same failing economic policies painted in a new color, Grassroots Global Justice collected over 1,130 signatures on a petition to US government representatives at Rio+20 calling for a rejection of the false solutions of the “Green” capitalism and for a commitment to reduce emissions and invest in Zero Waste systems. Click here to read the full petition.

The plan was to deliver the petition to the US Delegation at Rio+20 during two events they were hosting—first at a public briefing with US NGO’s at a hotel in Copacabana on Sunday June 17, and second at a side event on Friday June 22, the final day at the UN Summit, entitled “US Priorities at Rio+20.” GGJ delegates attended both events ready to present them with our petition outlining what we see as the US Priorities at Rio+20.

US fails to show for their own “US Priorities at Rio+20” side event; GGJ petition waits at empty podiums, outlining what the US priorities should be

On June 17 we brought our demands written on large pieces of paper to the public briefing, and on June 22, we showed up ready to stack the deck during the Question & Answer period to ask how the US plans to address the issues our petition presents, arriving early to distribute copies of the petition cover letter and our “We Reject the GreenD Economy” sticker on the presenters’ podium and to members of the audience.

However, the US bailed on both of these events. “Given their disappointment with the overall document and that they weren’t able to assert their agenda and get the green economy inserted to the extent that they were hoping for, [the US] low-balled the entire process,” explained Kali just after the US failed to show up on June 22.  “As Hillary Clinton just announced in her press conference, knowing that they weren’t going to get what they wanted, they’re trying to engage in a bunch of side initiatives, and they picked one of the weakest areas in the world to concentrate on, which is the African continent.  The US is going to put a pittance in money into the UN program and then have the rest of it come from private corporations and investment to do green development and build a green economy in Africa…  Their response to the global south demanding parity, technology transfer, and reparations, is to let the corporations run, own and control everything, and they’re going to promote that through these little side initiatives. Hillary clearly thought that was more of a priority than to come here and talk to civil society.”

Despite the No-Show pattern of the US Delegation at Rio+20, GGJ members and allies were still able to get the petition into their hands twice: Indigenous Environmental Network maneuvered a tricky situation to get it into the hands of Hillary Clinton’s entourage during her press conference, and our friends at Food and Water Watch tracked down the US delegation at a side event inside the UN conference.

While we can claim victory in the sense that this Green Capitalist model that the UN summit hoped to launch seems to have lost steam before taking off, we still have a long way to go toward actually implementing strategies for a real Green Economy that keeps the green in the grassroots and implements solutions to the economic and ecological crises that cool the planet and put our communities to work.

The GGJ petition echoed the voices of civil society at Rio+20 calling for a rejection of the corporate/capitalist model of the Green Economy.  This is just one step in a process we are engaged in to push for ambitious changes in the way the US handles climate change.  One of our demands is for the US to reduce emissions by 90% by 2050.  That will require a multi-prong strategy that addresses root causes and implements alternative initiatives that put cleaner energy sources into place and invest in local economies by putting people to work.  Reducing US emissions by 90% means a system change.

Opening of Rio+20 People’s Assembly for Our Solutions

Thousands of people were at the Cúpula dos Povos (People’s Summit) for the opening of today’s People’s Assembly for Our Solutions with a “mystica” theater piece by La Vía Campesina depicting a victory for people and the planet.

GGJ joins mass marches in Rio de Janeiro on the June 20 Global Day of Action!

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance joined the MST (Landless Movement), La Vía Campesina, and other social movements from Brazil and across the world in the streets of Rio de Janeiro yesterday to protest the theatrics of the UN Rio+20 Summit that officially kicked off yesterday.  The march lasted into the evening, and turn out was estimated at anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 people who came out to reject the “green” economy and call out big companies and banks like Monsanto and Cargill for their collusion in the climate crisis, and to call for solutions that cool the planet.  Keep a look out on the GGJ website and blog for more photos and reports.

In the morning, GGJ also marched with La Vía Campesina, the World March of Women, Friends of the Earth, local Brazilian community groups and indigenous representatives from across the country attempted to deliver demands to the UN Summit.  The march was met with a wall many layers deep of cops in full riot gear, tanks and helicopters, and managed to close the main road to Rio Centro and force participants to enter through a side route.  To show solidarity with local communities, the march went through the Autódromo neighborhood, which is located directly next to the site of the UN summit, and is facing threats of displacement for the 2016 Olympic Games.


Stay tuned to the GGJ website, blog, and Climate Connections for more photos and reports.

The Myth of Quality

At the People’s Summit in Rio, Brazil, I attended a very powerful and informative session on Women, Feminism, and Agroecology. Women had gathered from places such as Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Agentina, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, and Morocco to discuss their common realities in different parts of the world and how they were faring under this global agrobusiness model which has resulted in agrotoxins becoming another food group and trees being pimped for their ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

So many vital topics were brought up, and I will be exploring them in more depth as I unpack the learnings of this session, but today my thoughts are on challenges to buying local food as a parallel to environmental racism.

One sister from Brazil brought up the issue of “quality”and food. More specifically, “the discussion of quality as a means to avoid local production and circulation of food.” The narrative that comes out of big-ag, as well as all areas of media on aesthetics or beauty, is that unless it looks a certain way and is packaged in a particular package, the quality is suspect. We are taught to idealize row upon row of unnaturally large apples, oranges, potatoes, and peppers at big box stores, mistakingly believing that uniformity is somehow a natural state. We accept that these fruits and vegetables are waxed and polished, that flavor and nutrition are being sacrificed for aesthetics, and that obviously the only place this “perfection plant phenomenon” can happen is about a billion miles away from your home town thereby justifying flying them in from all corners of the world to meet our needs.

The other underlying message in the discussion of ‘quality’ is that big-ag can do it better. They can clean and package fruits and vegetables more effectively and safely that you little local farmers can. Unfortunately, many consumers believe this to be true even if most large food contaminations have come more as a result of the practices of commercial farming than at the produce stand of Saturday farmer’s markets.

It saddens me to hear children (and adults) look at the spectacular display of nature’s diversity and exclaim with all seriousness, “What’s wrong with it? Why does it look like that?”. I can’t help but reflect on how this myth of quality and beauty plays itself out all over the world with people too. This ego-centric, privileged assumption that has corporate entities deciding what is “natural”, “beautiful”, “healthy”, and “acceptable” (and who gets to be or have access to those things) is one of the foundational bricks of environmental racism and marginalization of certain communities. If you have any question as to the truth of this just think about where poor people live and where polluting facilities are located. Now, reflect on where the best or most effective city services such as landscaping, trash removal, and beautification projects are located…Now you tell me:

What is your city’s message about “Quality”? Image

Women, Feminism, and Agroecology Session – Rio People’s Summit June 15, 2012

ThyssenKrupp Big winner of Government Handouts

TOXIC TOUR: The Santa Cruz Steel Plant built by ThyssenKrupp is much more than a government handout of public funds to a private enterprise.

During a Toxic tour offered by the “Mais Demodracia Institute”, in the town of Sao Fernando in Santa Cruz, one was able to see first-hand the reach and the ability by a transnational corporation to adversely affect the livelihood of thousands of people and be awarded for it.

The first stop of the tour was at the main walking entrance to the Steel Producing plant guarded with four armed security guards. One would think that the complex starts there and that the property that was obtained by ThyssenKrupp includes that access road at the end of the town, but the tour guide explained that the access to vehicles was eliminated but that even though, fenced and guarded, that was a right of way to the people who inhabit the area.

“Not very inviting right?” asks the tour guide who has experience hostility in previous visits to the site where the guards have actually become aggressive towards residents and visitors. Beyond the fence you see this very industrial complex that is purported in the company’s web site as a vital machine that has helped the country even out the trade deficit by exporting around 5 million tons of steel per year.  It is a development funded mostly by the National development bank of Brazil. It uses public money to fund mega projects such as this one that only benefit large capital corporation without any benefits to the people affected.

Our delegation met with the local residents who explained to us the issues that have arisen in the area since the company moved in. They mentioned the flooding that was caused by the company’s building of an access canal for ships bringing raw materials and ship out steel plates. Because the main two economic activities of the area were primarily agriculture and fishing, most of the residents lost their livelihood as pollution and diversion of the river made it impossible for them to continue. They were also saying that the emissions from the plant have caused the crops that are produced there to be contaminated and therefore not suitable for consumption. There were some articles of newspapers saying that the company increased carbon emissions in the Rio Zone by 76%. I spoke with one of the elders there, a very sweet and caring man who explained to me all the changes he has seen in the area, including the destruction of habitat, of livelihoods and the deterioration of the health of local people.  ThyssenKrupp and the Brazilian Government portray the project as a green project, but so far, there is no plan in action to mitigate the impacts cause to the regions ecosystems and watersheds by the plant.

Jorge Glackman

Rio + 20 Incapacidad Politica para enfrentarse a la crisis


La        Conferencia de Río+20 que hoy comienza no viene acompañada del        cambio estructural en el modelo depredador actual. Al contrario,        profundiza la crisis global y coloca a la humanidad al borde del        abismo. La economía verde representa la última coartada de las        empresas transnacionales para seguir exprimiendo el planeta.

“Veinteaños      después podemos decir que los líderes mundiales no han      aprendido nada desde Río 92”, comenta Samuel Martín-Sosa de la      Alianza ¿Economia verde? ¡Futuro imposible!. “No tienen ni la      preparación, ni la integridad para acometer los cambios radicales      que se precisan para ponernos en el camino de la sostenibilidad,      ni      tampoco la capacidad para ello, pues son los mercados y los      grandes      grupos económicos quienes deciden”, añade. Lo que se plantea en      el texto negociador de la Conferencia no está a la altura de los      retos a los que el Planeta se enfrenta, y transmite la sensación      de      que su mundo de burocracia negociadora no es el mundo real en      crisis      que estamos viviendo. No hay una mirada crítica a la incapacidad      de      cambiar el rumbo en estas dos décadas. Brasil ha presentado un      texto      descafeinado y carente de contenido y compromiso, que supone un      retroceso en los acuerdos de Río 92, a pesar de que hoy los      problemas son mucho más profundos que entonces.

El      borrador del texto de negociación que hoy se pone sobre la mesa      está      atravesado de un llamamiento contínuo a la necesidad de conseguir      un      crecimiento económico sostenido. “Poner el crecimiento en el lado      de las soluciones en lugar de en el de las causas es truncar de      partida cualquier posibilidad de cambio real. No es posible el      crecimiento infinito en un planeta con límites y recursos finitos.      Los líderes reunidos en Río deben decirle la verdad a la      ciudadanía      sobre a donde lleva esta carrera alocada hacia delante, dándole      oxígeno a un modelo en crisis, sin escuchar a las voces de      millones      de personas indignadas y excluidas que claman por otro mundo      diferente. No se pueden hacer políticas sostenibles con políticos      irresponsables”, denuncia Iñaki Bárcena, otro miembro de la      alianza.

No hay      nada en la denominada “Economía verde” que se plantea en el      texto de negociación que cambie las bases sobre las que se asienta      el funcionamiento del capitalismo, y por tanto no se podrán      acometer      los cambios estructurales que permitan conseguir los objetivos de      erradicación de la pobreza, inclusión, reducción de las emisiones,      etc. que se plantean desde el discurso oficial. Lo que si hay en      el      borrador es el esbozo de un nuevo empuje para extender la lógica      mercantilista a todos los bienes naturales que aun hoy no tienen      dueño, que aun hoy, son de todas las especies de la Tierra. Así,      la      Economía Verde persigue la apropiación de los bienes naturales      (agua, tierra, aire,…) y las funciones de los ecosistemas      (regulación del clima, depuración de las aguas, polinización,      fotosíntesis…) para incluirlos en el mercado, comerciar con      ellos,      y convertirlos también en valores financieros.

“Los      líderes mundiales reunidos en las instalaciones de Río Centro no      representan a sus ciudadanos”, denuncia Samuel Martin Sosa. Con la      urgencia y magnitud de la crisis multidimensional en la que      estamos,      no se entiende que líderes como Obama, Merkel o Cameron, ni      siquiera      asistan al evento y que las corporaciones muestren más interés que      los propios gobiernos. Esto deja claro a quien beneficiará la      “Economía Verde”. Las organizaciones sociales, y representantes      de las diferentes comunidades reunidos en la Cumbre de los      Pueblos,      el encuentro alternativo que se desarrolla de forma paralela, han      denunciado la cooptación de los gobiernos y del propio sistema de      Naciones Unidas por las corporaciones, que influyen cada vez más      la      agenda política. Así mismo han lanzado una propuesta para avanzar      hacia un marco normativo internacional que permita limitar el      papel      de las corporaciones en las decisiones políticas y depurar sus      responsabilidades en las agresiones ambientales y sociales,      particularmente en países del Sur.

El      borrador de negociación se llama “El futuro que queremos”, pero      representa en realidad el futuro que NO queremos. Desde la Alianza      “¿Economía Verde? ¡Futuro imposible!” dicen que con esta      denominada Economía Verde, no habrá futuro para la humanidad      porque      este no será posible. El tiempo se agota y probablemente dentro de      20 años ya será demasiado tarde.

Más información:

Samuel Martín-Sosa,        portavoz Alianza “¿Economía Verde? ¡Futuro imposible!”

en Río de Janeiro,        tfno.21-87187065

Mariola Olcina,        para        temas de prensa, tfno: 21-91601804

Mariola Olcina Alvarado

How to be a Star Player for the U.S. Team in the Green Economy

How to be a Star Player for the U.S. Team in the Green Economy

GGJ at the People’s Summit in Rio de Janeiro

The Grassroots Global Justice delegation hit the ground running this week in Rio de Janeiro.  Corporations and government representatives from around the world have started to arrive, and thousands of civil society groups have made their way to Rio for both the official UN conference and the alternative Cúpula dos Povos (People’s Summit).  The UN summit is taking place in a massive warehouse structure called “Rio Centro” located 2 hours outside of downtown Rio de Janeiro.

At the UN Rio+20 Summit, the levels of participation and access have been even more severely restricted than they have been at other UN summits.  This increase in security is clearly serving to further distance the government and corporate forces from civil society, and the US Government representatives to Rio+20 (including Hillary Clinton) have played their part in making it extremely difficult for voices from the grassroots to reach any part of the negotiation process.  The US government delegation has been essentially unreachable by civil society.  After word leaked out about a meeting with US NGO’s at Windsor Plaza Hotel in the fancy neighborhood of Copacabana at 9:30am on a Sunday morning, the US reps thought twice and moved the meeting inside the official summit where there is much higher security and restrictions on access.

ImageWhile the United Nations convenes leaders from around the world at the UN Rio+20 Conference, social movements from across Brazil and around the world have converged at the Cúpula Dos Povos (People’s Summit) at the Aterro do Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro.  For many who have participated in the World Social Forum (or regional forums like the US Social Forum), the People’s Summit feels similar in its mainly open space nature.  The Aterro do Flamengo is a 3-mile long seahorse-shaped strip of park land along the entrance to the Guanabara Bay.  The winding path through the People’s Summit is lined with informal vendors, largely from Brazilian indigenous communities, and tents sponsored by social movement organizations, NGOs, and cultural workers, with hundreds of self-organized activities happening simultaneously across the park.

“The World Social Forum began in Brazil 10 years ago, and there is a tradition of an open space model in the movement here.  This People’s Summit is a hybrid.  We called for self-organized activities, and got 1,000 workshops; but we also see the summit as a vehicle to build a common frame for all of our work.  It’s kind of like an Occupy General Assembly, with acknowledged leadership from mass social movements.” – Cindy Wiesner, GGJ National Coordinator

ImageGGJ is playing a key organizing role in the People’s Summit, participating in planning meetings leading up to the summit over the past months and during the process guiding the facilitation, documentation and synthesis of one of the 5 main tracks of the People’s Assembly process.

The People’s Summit is experimenting with a methodology that takes participants through a 5-day process (stopping midway for a mass mobilization tomorrow on June 20, of course!).  The sessions were divided into 5 subject areas called Plenaries, where participants could bring testimonies about their issues: Rights for Social and Environmental Justice, Defense of Common Goods Against Commodification, Food Sovereignty, Energy and Extractive Industries, and Work: For Another Economy and New Paradigms for Society.  Each “Plenary” followed the same track, first talking about root causes and false solutions, then talking about alternatives and real solutions, and finally talking about points of convergence and potential for future collaborations.

The Plenaries ended yesterday, and the “systematization team” spent a long night synthesizing the three sessions into a succinct report to bring to the Assemblies.  Today, the Assemblies launched in an attempt to bring together the work from all 5 tracks.


GGJ has been leading Plenary 1 on Rights for Social and Environmental Justice, along with members of the Martin Luther King Center in Cuba and other international social

movement allies.  Check back later this week for a report on what comes out of the Assemblies!


CinImagedy Wiesner, GGJ National Coordinator, joined in the press conference to launch the People’s Summit on June 15.


Michael Leon Guerrero, Outgoing GGJ National Coordinator, and Nathanette Mayo of Black Workers For Justice in Raleigh, NC perform during one of the Plenaries at the People’s Summit

From Rainforest Action Network: Led by Indigenous peoples of Brazil, nearly 1500 activists turned out today to form a “human banner” on Rio’s Flamengo Beach. The banner is meant to promote the importance of free-running rivers (“Rios para a vida” means “Rivers for life” in Portugese), renewable energy, and including Indigenous knowledge in solutions to the climate crisis.