Janet tweeting from the official Rio+20 plenary
Janet Keating, at the UN’s Rio + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development.
Northern Alliance for Sustainability
Thank you President.
I am making this statement on behalf of the NGOs.
It feels amazing to be sitting in this room among all the world
leaders, and feeling all this power around me that can shape the World.
We all know the threat that is facing us, and I do not need to repeat
the urgency. Science is very clear. If we do not change in the coming
five to ten years the way our societies function, we will be threatening
the survival of future generations and all other species on the planet.
Nevertheless, you sitting here in this room have the power to reverse
all of this. What you can do here is the dream of each one of us: to
have the opportunity to be the savors of the planet. It is all up to
And yet we stand on the brink of Rio+20 being another failed attempt,
with governments only trying to protect their narrow interests instead
of inspiring the World and giving all of us back the faith in humanity
that we need. If this happens, it would be a big waste of power, and a
big waste of leadership.
You cannot have a document titled ‘the future we want’ without any
mention of planetary boundaries, tipping points, or the Earth’s carrying
capacity. The text as it stands is completely out of touch with
reality. Just to be clear, NGOs here in Rio in no way endorse this
document. Already more than 1,000 organisations and individuals have
signed in only one day a petition called “The Future We Don’t Want” that
completely refuses the current text. It does not in any way reflect our
aspiration, and therefore we demand that the words “in full
participation with civil society” are removed from the first paragraph.
If you adopt the text in its current form, you will fail to secure a
future for the coming generations, including your own children.
To mention a few examples:
In the issue of finding resources to implement sustainable development,
we see countries using the economic crisis as an excuse, while at the
same time spending 100s of billions of dollars subsidizing the fossil
fuel industry, the most profitable industry in the world. The first
thing you can do is eliminating the existing harmful subsidies,
especially fossil fuel subsidies, which was voted as the number one
issue during the civil society dialogue.
Under the oceans section, you have failed to give a clear mandate to
even start negotiating an implementing agreement to stop the Wild West
abuse of the high seas.
There are many other failures in the document related to women’s
reproduction health, missed opportunities to start new global treaties
on civil society participation and on sustainability reporting, the
extraordinary lack of any reference to armed conflicts, nuclear energy
(especially after the Fukushima disaster), and many others.
But it is not too late. We do not believe that it is over. You are here
for three more days, and you can still inspire us and the world. It
would be a shame and a waste for you to only come here and sign off a
document. We urge you to create new political will that would make us
stand and applaud you as our true leaders.
Janet Keating, Executive Director of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), Central Appalachia Tribunal organizer, and Rio+20 delegate with Loretto and the Feminist Task Force sharing the reports from our two US Women and Climate Justice Tribunals with Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the US EPA. Lisa thanked Janet for her courage in her organizing.
In the past day, UN delegates have released the final draft of the Rio+20 outcome document. One of the major concerns coming from the Women’s Major Group camp is the absence of any reference to reproductive rights and the efforts by the Holy See to not only hamper any advancement for these rights, but to roll back on advancements of sexual and reproductive health protections made in previous agreements.
The following text is a translation of an article appearing in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that features an interview with former Irish President Mary Robinson on this issue.
“What do celibate men know about women?” says Mary Robinson.
Former President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations (1997-2002), Mary Robinson is one of the most active voices in the international conferences in regard to sexual and reproductive health of women. At Rio+20, it could not be otherwise. The current member of The Elders (a group that includes former world leaders) said she is concerned about the pressure from the Vatican to remove any reference to sex, sexuality and family planning in general from the final conference outcome document. “What do celibate men know about the life and the decisions of poor women?” she asked in an exclusive interview with O Globo.
Roberta Jansen: What is the challenge in Rio+20 with respect to reproductive health.
MARY ROBINSON: What worries us in relation to the Rio +20 is that there be a retrograde step in relation to texts adopted in Cairo and here, for the past 20 years, when texts in an international agreement are weaker, it has a political significance. Instead of getting weaker, it has to become much stronger. We know that there are 250 million women and children who want access to contraceptives, who want to know more about reproductive health, who want to better understand their bodies. This is one of the most important human rights. And this conference can weaken or strengthen this right.
JANSEN: How is sexual and reproductive health important for sustainable development?
ROBINSON: Women are essential to development. At least that message is clean and is in the text. We have many examples, such as women farmers who, with access to land rights and more training in the use of nutritional information, get a much higher production with positive effects. Hundreds of thousands of people can be lifted out of poverty and food insecurity, and part of that has to do with reproductive health. Today, women in Somalia have six, seven, eight children in the hope that one or two survive. No woman in the 21st century should have to go through that.
JANSEN: There is an intense debate over whether reproductive and sexual health should enter the document. There are countries that are opposed. This subject is still controversial?
ROBINSON: I think that is disturbing and absurd. I say absurd because it is so detached from the reality of women’s lives and also the other half already accepted by all. Empowering women is essential for the development of all countries and all the goals of sustainable development. There must be some logic in addressing the issues. I fear there are religious influences of various kinds, uninformed of the reality of women’s lives.
JANSEN: The Vatican seems to be the biggest opponent of the policies of sexual and reproductive health. All references to sex, sexuality and family planning in the document are rejected by the Holy See. As a lady who is Catholic, how do you see the Catholic Church’s position?
ROBINSON: I find it very sad. In the early ‘70s, in Ireland I dealt with these issues and was criticized by the Catholic Church. But I know many of my friends are Christians, many are catholic, and they know that this is an issue that needs to continue to be addressed. It saddens me that we have this problem in the twenty-first century. It saddens me that there is a political war of power and the church is a part of it. What do celibate men know about the lives, health and decisions of poor women?
JANSEN: What are the risks involved, in your opinion, if the document is to ignore female reproductive and sexual health?
ROBINSON: I hope this does not happen because it would be irresponsible. We are talking about sustainable development. We have an Earth that is under stress. And we know there are 250 million women and girls who want to be responsible and have the opportunity to raise their children and live better. When I talk to the leaders of developing countries, they have serious problems from the stress on their populations. And they all share the same idea: We need, in our own terms, to have policies on family planning and reproductive health, but we need support, especially from international instruments such as this, the Rio+20.
At the official plenary session of Rio+20 with representatives from 193 countries and more than 130 heads of state.
Today the women’s major group launched a demonstration at RioCentro as governments neared the end of their negotiations on the Rio+20 sustainable development outcome document. The women present expressed their outrage at the absence of any mention of reproductive rights and the overall lack of consideration for women’s rights and concerns. The sign in the photo, held by Feminist Task Force members, reads: “Brazil, don’t turn your back on women’s rights!”.
As the official session of Rio+20 draws near, there are new reports on the ground here in Rio that Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff will be taking the conference’s outcome document, that has been negotiated for over 6 months by all 193 member states of the UN, to the current G20 meetings in Los Cabos, Mexico to seek approval from the leaders of the top 20 economies of the world. Many women and men at the People’s Summit this morning called this move ”democratically absurd”, especially when many of these leaders will not even be attending Rio+20. Presenting the document at the G20, according to BBC reporting, “would allow world leaders not going to Rio, including President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, to give the document their endorsement before the final round begins in Rio”.
Yesterday I joined with hundreds of women at the Rio + 20 People’s Summit (cupla do povos) which is taking place in Parque Flamenco in Rio at the same time as the UN’s preparatory and official sessions at the conference center they are calling “RioCentro”. The mobilization of “mulheres” (women in Portuguese) was really incredible— to listen to , meet with, walk with the world’s women— to hear their challenges and their suffering due to environmental degradation, due to the objectification and comodification of their bodies, water, and land — and also to witness their passion, creativity and commitment to finding solutions.