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Rio + 10 Summit Should Listen to Anti-Globalization Protesters

By Diego Cevallos*

The arguments of those who oppose globalization could help build a much more effective battle against poverty and in favor of the environment, the top official of the United Nations Environment Program told Tierramérica.

MEXICO CITY – The World Summit on Sustainable Development, known as Rio + 10 and slated to take place next year in South Africa, could serve as an opportunity for devising formulas to guide globalization towards benefiting the poor and the environment. However, if it is to do so, we must listen to those who oppose the globalization process, Klaus Topfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), told Tierramérica during his recent visit to Mexico.

Tierramérica: The tone of the demands and the violence of those who question globalization are growing more intense, and they claim that they are not being listened to in international debates – such as the recent Bonn meeting about climate change. Are they right? What should be done about anti-globalization protests?

Topfer: The violent actions we have seen are completely irresponsible and they are a major disadvantage for those who are concerned about the impacts of globalization. Their arguments would be stronger if they were not linked to violence. But we must listen to the sectors that oppose the globalization process, we must make an effort to involve them in the discussions.

- The offer to listen to what they have to say has been made repeatedly, but no effective space for dialogue seems to exist. These movements maintain that decisions are always made behind their back.
- I don’t want to send any signal that I agree with violence, but we must listen carefully to their arguments. The Rio + 10 Summit in 2002 (organized by UNEP) could serve as an arena for dialogue about what we should do to ensure that globalization is an advantage for the poor and works for the environment.

- At the recent conference on the Kyoto Protocol, held in Bonn last month and organized by UNEP, indigenous groups asked to be heard, pointing out that climate change affects them as well as their resources and lands. Nevertheless, the said that once again their demands were not taken into account.
- I had the opportunity in Bonn to meet with an indigenous representative. I recognize that they feel they have not been integrated into these negotiations on climate change. We must do everything possible to involve civil society in general, and indigenous peoples, in these matters. We want to prepare ourselves better for future conferences.

- Apparently, some experts are not satisfied with what was achieved in Bonn. What was lacking? Why is there so little progress on the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol?
- We achieved an important starting point for multilateral environmental cooperation and a basis for ratification by national parliaments. The agreement on carbon absorption (‘’sinks’’) did not satisfy everyone, and the industrialized countries maintain that the 420 million dollars they will provide developing countries to foster ‘’clean development’’ mechanisms is enough. But others say it is too little. Everyone knows that the most difficult part is the details and that there is always some better way that it could have been done.

- However, any progress made seems to be reversed by the stance of the United States, the main culprit behind climate change due to its high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and which still considers the Kyoto Protocol to be ‘’fatally flawed.’’
- It is important to clarify the facts. The United States government is convinced that climate change is indeed the result of human activity, of the massive use of fossil fuels. Of course, it is essential that the United States join the Protocol because the country is also a leader in technology, and technological advances are crucial for the more efficient use of energy. We must make an effort to work with the United States, and in that sense Bonn was positive, because it left that opportunity open. It is not my duty to advise or make recommendations, but I am sure there is a clear notion about the responsibility of the United States in climate change.

* Diego Cevallos is an IPS correspondent.

Copyright © 2001 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados


External Links

United Nations Environment Program

World Summit on Sustainable Development - Rio+10

UNEP: Klaus Topfer

Bonn Conference on Kyoto Protocol

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